Competitive naïveté between a highly successful invader and a functionally similar native species

Stephen J. Heavener, Alexandra J R Carthey, Peter B. Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Naïveté can occur within any novel antagonistic interaction, and competitive forces play a fundamental role in shaping community structure, yet competitive naïveté has received very little attention in the literature to date. Naïveté towards a novel competitor is unlikely to result in immediate mortality, but could potentially affect access to resources and hence population growth and survival. In cases where only one species (either native or alien) remains naïve to the other, the species that recognizes the other will gain advantage, with implications for both the persistence of the native species and the establishment and spread of the invasive. The invasive black rat (Rattus rattus) has spread throughout many coastal areas of Australia, and competes with the native bush rat (Rattus fuscipes) wherever they coexist. As these rats have now been interacting for approximately 200 years, and multi-species rodent communities generally maintain their structure through olfactory communication, our aim was to determine whether these two very closely related species recognize one another's odors and use them to mediate their interactions. We used remote-sensing cameras deployed in single- and mixed-species sites to record the behavioral responses of each species to conspecific, heterospecific and control odors. Black rats investigated bush rat odors but not vice versa, suggesting that bush rats may remain naïve towards their new competitor. Highly successful invaders such as black rats may possess traits such as broad recognition templates and rapid learning capabilities that contribute to their ongoing success in invading new environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-84
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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