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Worth A Thousand Words

I love walking down Broadway when I visit New York City.  So when I saw a paper entitled, Biodiversity on Broadway – Enigmatic Diversity of the Societies of Ants (Formicidae) on the Streets of New York City by researchers Marko Pećarević, James Danoff-Burgand Robert R. Dunn, I thought it would be interesting to highlight their urban ecology study in this week’s Worth A Thousand Words.

The authors sampled over 6,600 individual ants living on 44 street medians in New York City between June and July of 2006. Their aim was to characterize ant communities in an urbanized setting and to “understand how different characteristics of street medians influence the species richness and composition of ants”.   Below is Figure 1 of the paper which shows the 44 sampling locations along Broadway, Park Avenue, and the West Side Highway on Manhattan Island.

Figure 1 PLoS ONE e13222

From the abstract of the paper:

Each year, a larger proportion of the Earth’s surface is urbanized, and a larger proportion of the people on Earth lives in those urban areas. The everyday nature, however, that humans encounter in cities remains poorly understood. Here, we consider perhaps the most urban green habitat, street medians. We sampled ants from forty-four medians along three boulevards in New York City and examined how median properties affect the abundance and species richness of native and introduced ants found on them. Ant species richness varied among streets and increased with area but was independent of the other median attributes measured. Ant assemblages were highly nested, with three numerically dominant species present at all medians and additional species present at a subset of medians. The most common ant species were the introduced Pavement ant (Tetramorium caespitum) and the native Thief ant (Solenopsis molesta) and Cornfield ant (Lasius neoniger). The common introduced species on the medians responded differently to natural and disturbed elements of medians. Tetramorium caespitum was most abundant in small medians, with the greatest edge/area ratio, particularly if those medians had few trees, whereas Nylanderia flavipes was most abundant in the largest medians, particularly if they had more trees. Many of the species encountered in Manhattan were similar to those found in other large North American cities, such that a relatively small subset of ant species probably represent most of the encounters humans have with ants in North America.

In total, out of their sample, the authors found 13 different species of ants living on the street medians of New York City.  They also found that the street medians serve as a melting pot for ant species,  with species native to North America coexisting alongside species of ants native to other parts of the world.

This paper is freely available for you to read, comment on and rate.  If you enjoyed reading this paper, you might also like reading some of our other papers that focus on ant societies.

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