This Scientist Discovered an Ant Species in His Own Backyard

Victoria D. Doty

This short article appeared in the July/August 2021 problem of Find magazine as “A New Ant in Town.” Subscribe for more stories like these.


The perform of discovering and classifying new species — taxonomy — demonstrates a solid regional bias. As Jack Longino, a biologist at the University of Utah, describes it, most of the species native to Europe and North America already have been found out. So, most modern day taxonomists, no make any difference in which they’re from, tend to perform their investigate in tropical climates, in which the a lot less-researched landscapes home a better diversity of organisms. Longino himself has put in most of his profession traveling to the rainforests of Central America. Searching for ants nesting in dead wood, he has found more than one hundred new species. But when Longino found out a new ant species, Strumigenys ananeotes, in the summer of 2018, the actual shock was not that he found it so a great deal as in which he found it: at house in his personal backyard.

(Jack Longino/University of Utah)


In His Personal Terms…

In this article I am, an qualified, going off to these unique tropical destinations to obtain new species. And I are living in this suburban home in Salt Lake Town around the University of Utah, with a minimal garden in the back again. I went out one particular evening and obtained down on my arms and knees wanting for springtails [modest arthropods] that occur out at night. I was wanting at the soil, and I observed these ants going for walks by. I could not notify what species they were — for that sort of detail you have to place them less than the microscope — but I understood they belonged to a group of ants that should not have been there. The group takes place possibly in the tropics or deciduous forests of the jap U.S. — not in Utah. My jaw dropped.

My initially imagined was that this is an released species. I gathered a bunch and took them into the lab, fully anticipating to discover them as some species from someplace else. But, lo and behold, they were distinct adequate from known ants to be a unique species.

For me, it was mind blowing that I experienced found a new species in my personal backyard. It was one particular of the odder occurrences in my lifetime. Just two weeks in the past, one particular of my undergraduate pupils found the second-ever report of these ants less than a paving stone in his backyard.

You could say the encounter strengthened anything I’ve often felt, which is that it pays to be observant where ever you are, to anticipate the unexpected. There are nonetheless lots of mysteries in the entire world, and some of them are ideal less than our noses. I’ve been urging persons to head out into their backyards on early summer evenings, and crawl around and see what they can see.

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