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Behavior and ecology of ants in the tropical forest canopy

Dr. Steve Yanoviak, Department of Biology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Monday, February 6, 2012
  4:10–5 p.m.

Location: Genomics Building 1102A
  Parking Information

Category: Seminar


Steve Yanoviak, Department of Biology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock


The rain forest canopy is a unique ecological template for small cursorial animals such as ants; essentially it is a linear network connecting carbohydrate-based resources perched 30 m above the ground.  The main goal of my research is to understand the factors that shape the behavior and ecology of ants inhabiting this setting.  My talk will provide an overview of three ongoing projects.  First, canopy ants are highly exposed and frequently fall or jump, potentially landing in the foreign and hazardous understory.  I will show that worker ants in 8 extant genera avoid this fate by gliding to their home tree trunk during a fall.  Second, parasites often manipulate host behavior to facilitate transmission to new hosts.  I will explain an amazing case of this phenomenon involving canopy ants.  Specifically, a nematode causes some arboreal ants to resemble ripe berries, thus likely attracting frugivores as vectors.  Finally, all evidence to date indicates that lianas (woody vines) are increasing in abundance in tropical forests.  I will discuss an ongoing, large-scale experiment designed to uncover the consequences of this change on canopy ant diversity.  These and related studies illustrate the relevance of forest canopies as ecological templates influencing patterns of diversity and the evolution of novel behaviors. 

Open to: Faculty/Staff Only
Admission: Free
Sponsor: Entomology Department

Contact Information:
Christina Mogren