How Fifty-One Ant Species Can Coexist on the Harbor Islands

Adam Clark

Adam Clark
Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harvard University
26 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Delivered at the 2011 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium

Because islands are usually smaller and more isolated than mainland habitats, they are expected to have fewer species. However, a five-year All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory of the arthropods on the Boston Harbor Islands, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, suggests something puzzling. We collected over 50 species of ants on 10 islands, including four new species records for Massachusetts, and one new to the United States. This would mean that almost half of all known Massachusetts ant species can be collected in the BOHAI!

To explain this, we look at how ants divide space on the islands through time. We find that the number of species actually active on islands depends greatly on the timescale under consideration. It appears that ants move their nests and change their foraging strategies through time, likely responding to high levels of competition in crowded patches of habitat. This results in ant species cycles on the BOHA. Since some of these cycles include potential pest species, these dynamics could be useful tools in future planning for the park.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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