Habitat requirements and occurrence of Crematogaster pilosa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) ants within intertidal salt marshes
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Habitat requirements and occurrence of Crematogaster pilosa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) ants within intertidal salt marshes

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  • Journal Title:
    Florida Entomologist
  • Description:
    Spartina alterniflora Loisel. (Poales: Poaceae) salt marshes provide unique conditions for organisms to develop specialized morphological and behavioral traits. Crematogaster pilosa Emery (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) ants nest in S. alterniflora stems and display polydomy (i.e., multiple nests per colony), which has not been observed in terrestrial populations of this species. We identified new colonies of C. pilosa in S. alterniflora dominated salt marshes of Sapelo Island, Georgia (USA), and characterized the vegetation structure associated with ant presence. Crematogaster pilosa colonies were found most often 2 to 10 m from tidal creek channels in areas with expansive intermediate-height S. alterniflora. Marsh patches with abundant brown leaf vegetation above the high water level were most likely to have ants present (P = 0.03). These areas have extensive vegetation that remains dry during tidal advances, are protected from tidal surges, and most often occur along depositional banks of tidal creeks. Ant populations do not occur in the upland portion of the S. alterniflora marsh, presumably due to a lack of elevated habitat. Persistence of C. pilosa within S. alterniflora salt marshes is tied to the availability of connected habitat that avoids tidal submersion. The narrow band of intermediate-height S. alterniflora plants along tidal creeks provides both the needed horizontal structure and dry vegetation, allowing a terrestrial ant to colonize this seemingly atypical environment.
  • Source:
    Florida Entomologist, 99(1):82-88
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    CC BY
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