Two new projects recently went live on Antweb that are aimed at helping folks identify the ever-growing cadre of invasive, introduced and intercepted ants.
The Introduced Ants project lists 157 species (136 imaged) that have established populations outside of their native range. The project is being curated by Brian Fisher, Andrew Suarez and myself.
“Of the nearly 14,000 described species of ants, over 200 have established populations outside of their native range. Some of these have become highly destructive invaders. In addition to being economically costly in both urban and agricultural areas, invasive ants can modify ecosystems by reducing native ant diversity, negatively affect vertebrate populations, and disrupt ant-plant mutualisms. However, for most introduced ants we know little about their impacts and less about their biology; we often don’t even know where they are from. The goals of the introduced ant page on antweb.org is to collate information on where introduced ants are found, and help provide taxonomic resources for introduced ants. Ultimately, we hope this site will provide information on 1) biogeographic patterns of invasion including the identification of regions that may either produce many invaders or be particularly prone to invasion, and 2) taxonomic perspectives on invasion success. Here we provide a list of introduced ants, that is those ants known to have established populations outside their native range. A far greater number of species have been intercepted at ports of entry but have not become established (see Port of Entry ants).” – Antweb
The Port of Entry Ants project is being curated by Andy Suarez and myself, and is composed of 210 species (192 imaged) that have been intercepted at United States ports of entry. The baseline of this project are the USNM specimens Suarez and Ward (2005) identified to examine the role of opportunity in the unintentional introduction of nonnative ants. Andrea Walked (Suarez Lab, UIUC) has done an excellent job with the imaging, and Michele Esposito (CAS) has helped with the data handling. Hopefully this project will expand to include ants intercepted on an international scale.
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.” – Antweb