According to a recent article in Biology Letters, “the numbers of introduced or established ants may be much larger than the numbers so far documented.”
Lead author Veronica Miravete, from the University of Gerona in Spain, told the BBC, “Due to their small size, most ants are transported involuntarily in containers and other boxes, together with soil, wood, ornamental plants and fruits etc, on ships or airplanes. The number of ants arriving is very large and 85% of the introduced species are able to establish successfully. This indicates that there are many introduced species that are living around us as of yet undetected.”
The authors compiled data on the introduction and establishment of exotic ants in the USA, New Zealand, and The Netherlands, and they believe that “the number of introduced species in temperate regions could be three times higher than the number so far detected, with most (85%) of these species established. These values suggest that at least one-sixth (16%) of the world myrmecofauna (i.e. 12 762 species ) have been shipped to new habitats.”
The authors also found that “the vast majority of introduced and established species appear to come from the Neotropics,” which is not surprising since those regions account for the largest number of ant genera and species.
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