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In a twist of fate, the ant expert discovers new species in his own backyard



  Newly discovered backyard ant

Newly discovered ant species Strumigenys ananeotes. Credit: Jack Longino / University of Utah

Jack Longino is a global ant expert and has traveled the world to document and discover ant species. But for his latest discovery, he did not have to go further than his own backyard. In August 2018, just after dark, Longino saw four ants in his back yard, looking really out of place. The next day he dug deeper and found more specimens. They reminded him of species that he knew from the tropics or from the deciduous forests of the eastern United States.

  Strumigenys ananeotes

Strumigenys ananeotes. Credit: Jack Longino / University of Utah

But the surprises did not stop there. Longino originally believed that the ants had been brought into the area, possibly through the commercial potting soil, and that they were some well-known species elsewhere. However, a close look at the lab revealed that it was a new species that was almost certainly native to the region, with similarities to related species in Arizona. Longino suspected that the ant, which likes warm, humid habitats, lived underground in Utah's typically dry climate. However, more than 150 years of irrigation and introduced forest may have raised the courage to surface again. For this reason he named the new ant Strumigenys ananeotes (Stroom-i-jen-knees-ana-knee-oat-tees). The name ananeotes means "newly created".

  New ant Strumigenys ananeotes

Strumigenys ananeotes. Credit: Jack Longino / University of Utah

New and important discoveries could be near home, writes Longino along with his colleague Douglas Booher in an article published in Western North American Naturalist on the discovery. "We hope," they write, "that this discovery will encourage naturalists to attract headlamps and hand lenses on warm summer nights and go to the backyard."

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New Ant from a Backyard in Utah "by John T. Longino and Douglas B. Booher, Western North American Naturalist Vol. 79: No. 4, Article 3.


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