Potential role for ants in ecosystem services

A molten aluminum cast of an ant’s nest hangs from the ceiling. On the desk, six dead ants are pinned inside a box, awaiting identification. Next to them sits a vial of dead termites. Still, the most interesting thing you’ll find in the office of Dr. Joshua King, is the truth.

Consider a queen, executed for not producing enough offspring. A community whose entire male population functions solely as “sperm rockets.” A group of female workers tasked with invading their neighbors and stealing their children. It may sound like the history of a vicious alien empire, but it’s just another day for the invasive species known as fire ants.

Dr. King, an assistant professor in the Biology Department, has been studying Florida’s diverse ant population (200+ species) for the past 11 years. Now, Dr. King is exploring a potential role for ants in ecosystem services (when an organism’s natural functions provide some value to humans).

See the special feature here.

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