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    Ant research

    History of ant research

    Current scientific knowledge of the Melanesian ant fauna suffers from a combination of a highly diverse fauna in an inaccessible area. However, this situation is still typical for many tropical countries, namely in Southeast Asia. Ant diversity in New Guinea has been estimated to be among the highest in the world and over 790 ant species have been reported from the area, representing an interesting combination of Australian and Oriental taxa. The first accounts on Melanesian ants were published as early as the 1860's (Smith 1860, 1865), when the first species were described from A. R. Wallace's expeditions. Among the first people to devote their efforts to describing Melanesian ant taxa were C. Emery in the late 19th century and H. Donisthorpe in the 1930's. Despite research efforts conducted by several scientists from the 1950's to 1970's (Brown 1954; Brown 1957; Room 1975b; Taylor 1968; Taylor 1977; Wilson 1958; Wilson 1959a,b; Wilson 1967), who contributed important taxonomic revisions and descriptions of Melanesian ants, a large proportion of New Guinean ants are still in desperate need of further taxonomic studies. It has been estimated that about 15 to 20% of local ant species may remain unknown by science (Snelling 1998).

    Furthermore, virtually no broader study focusing on the ecology of the New Guinea ant fauna exists to date. The only exceptions are the works of two pioneering biologists: Wilson (Wilson 1959a; Wilson 1959) and Room (1975), who briefly described local ant assemblages. A similar situation applies to any quantitative investigation of ant fauna, which is lacking as well. Few recent surveys of Melanesian ants have occurred (e.g. Snelling 1998a,b), resulting in local species lists, which represent valuable information. Sporadic ecological studies from last 30 years were usually focused on restricted phenomena (e.g. Gullan et al. 1993, LePonce et al. 1997; 1999), but they are important contributions for assembling the mosaic of diverse interactions between New Guinean ants and their environment.

    Our current research on ants

    Our research projects are focused on various aspects of the ecology, evolution and systematics of Melanesian ants.

    The major areas of our research:

    • Documenting ant species richness and diversity turnover in lowland rainforest on the regional scale;
    • Composition and interspecific interactions in communities of ground foraging and leaf litter ants;
    • Phylogeographic patterns and population characteristics of selected Melanesian ant species;
    • Predatory effects of ants on other arthropods;
    • Structure and interspecific interactions of canopy ant communities on a local scale;
    • Taxonomic studies of selected taxa.

    The accumulation of new ant material from our fieldwork and the necessity of comparing it with original museum specimens was the major impetus for the origin of this webpage. We intend to build comprehensive resource for future studies of Melanesian ants. We also hope that sharing information about collected species will promote further interest about local ant diversity.