Competitive exclusion of a worldwide invasive pest by a native. Quantifying competition between two phytophagous insects on two host plant species

J Anim Ecol. 2008 Jan;77(1):184-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01324.x.


1. High competitive ability is believed to be an important characteristic of invasive species. Many animal studies have compared the competitive ability of invasive species with a native species that is being displaced, but few have looked at systems where an invasive species has failed to establish itself. These types of studies are important to determine if competition is relevant not only to invading species but also to the biotic resistance of a community. 2. The thrips species F. occidentalis is a highly invasive pest that has spread from its original range (the western states of the USA) to a worldwide distribution. Despite this, F. occidentalis is largely absent or occurs in low numbers in the eastern states of the USA, where the native F. tritici dominates. It is possible that F. tritici is competitively excluding F. occidentalis from this region. 3. Larval competition between these two thrips species was tested on two known plant hosts, Capsicum annuum (a crop plant), and Raphanus raphanistrum (an invasive weed), using a response surface design with number of larvae surviving as the response variable. The response surface design allowed competition models to be fit to data using maximum likelihood estimation, thus generating quantitative values for interspecific competition. 4. On both plant hosts, the native F. tritici did not experience significant interspecific competition from the invasive F. occidentalis. In contrast, F. occidentalis did experience significant interspecific competition from F. tritici. Competition from F. tritici larvae on F. occidentalis larvae was estimated to be 1.72 times (on C. annuum) and 1.76 times (on R. raphanistrum) the effect of intraspecific competition. The invasive F. occidentalis appears to be competitively excluded by the native F. tritici. 5. This study confirms the importance of competition in the biotic resistance of a community and is one of the few animal studies to not only test for competition in an apparently resistant ecosystem but also to quantify the level of interspecific competition between two animal species.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capsicum / parasitology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Hemiptera / growth & development*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics
  • Raphanus / parasitology*
  • Species Specificity