The spatiotemporal dynamics of insular ant metapopulations


The ant species inhabiting 129 small Bahamian cays were surveyed annually over a 5-yr period. Stepwise multiple linear regression analyses revealed that plant species number was the best single predictor of ant species richness. Vegetated area or cay elevation (depending on the analysis) were second selected variables. Variation in the selected predictor variables explained 56.8-71.7% of the variation in ant species number. An 'all-subsets' regression approach yielded similar results. Stepwise multiple logistic regression analyses revealed that the probability of occurrence of Dorymyrmex pyramicus was positively related to vegetated area and elevation, whereas that of Pheidole punctatissima was positively related to plant species number and distance. Species turnover was documented on 42% of the cays inhabited by ants over the course of the study. Mean annual relative turnover was low and variable, ranging from 0.83 to 22.37%/yr when calculated on a perspecies basis, and from 2.13 to 5.70%/yr when calculated on a per-island basis. Sampling error was quantified, and pseudoturnover was found to inflate observed turnover for only one species (P. punctatissima). A comparison of immigration and extinction rates indicated the existence of a dynamic equilibrium between these two processes. The probabilities of immigration and extinction (pooled over all species) were both positively related to vegetation height. Observed turnover rates for ants were lower than those reported from other, more limited studies of insular ants and from studies of insular arthropods in general, and were more similar to documented vertebrate turnover rates. Incidence functions revealed that the three most common species, Brachymyrmex cf. obscurior, D. pyramicus, and P. punctatissima, displayed different patterns of distribution in relation to insular ant species richness.

Document Type





All-subsets regression, Ants, Bahamas, Extinction, Formicidae, Immigration, Incidence functions, Island biogeography, Logistic regression, Metapopulation dynamics, Pseudoturnover of species, Turnover of species

Publication Date


Journal Title