Study Finds 42 Different Ant Species Inhabit New York City

Posted on November 12, 2014

Pavement ants in Manhattan

A study of ants in New York City has found that at least 42 different species of ants call the busy city home. The study also found differences in the levels of ant biodiversity in different parts of the city. The image above shows some pavement ants (Tetramorium) eating a small piece of human food on a Manhattan street median.

Ants were collected from about 50 different sites in Manhattan. These sites included street medians, urban forests in recreational areas inside city parks. The study found that high-stress areas had much less diversity than lower stress areas. The researchers found only 21 different species on high-stress street medians, while 32 different species were found living in the less stressful urban forest sites. However, exotic species were found to be equally common across all habitats.

The study also found that the type of urban habitat was the most important factor in ant diversity. Sites in urban forests that were far apart still had more similar ant species than an urban forest site and a recreational area site that were right next to each other.

Dr. Amy Savage, a postdoctoral biological sciences researcher at North Carolina State University and lead author of the research paper says in a statement, "People don't think of cities as having ecology, and urban environments haven't been well studied. But protected areas, such as national parks, have been well studied. So we wanted to see if the theories developed to predict biodiversity in protected areas could also predict species diversity in urban environments."

The study, "Fine-scale heterogeneity across Manhattan's urban habitat mosaic is associated with variation in ant composition and richness," can be found here in the journal, Insect Conservation and Diversity.

Photo: Amy Savage, North Carolina State Universit