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Biological invasions are a leading threat to biodiversity, agriculture and the economy. Ants are among the most damaging introduced species, yet we know very little about why some ant species become successful invaders. A major challenge of invasion biology lies in the development of a predictive understanding of invasion processes. However, this is inherently difficult because different characteristics may be important for different species or during different stages of invasion. Subsequently, research on invasive ants needs to examine taxonomic patterns across each of the three distinct stages of invasion: opportunity, establishment and spread.
To examine the role of opportunity in invasion, we are developing a database of ants intercepted in quarantine worldwide. These data will be used to examine why some species succeed as invaders while others do not. Surprisingly, there is a remarkable diversity of ant species moving around the world as a result of human commerce. However, relatively few species become established suggesting that opportunity alone is insufficient for introduced species to establish and spread.