Ants aren’t adapting to warmer temperatures

By | February 18, 2023

Eos reports:

Ants are a bedrock of forest ecosystems, and they might not be adjusting well to warming temperatures.

In newly published research, scientists found that foraging ants preferred to gather food placed at specific temperatures but did not avoid food that was too hot or too cold. Long-term exposure to these hot, but sublethal, temperatures could be changing the ants’ food and energy usage, harming colonies and broader forest ecosystems.

Hotter temperatures force ants to use more energy to survive, said lead researcher Elsa Youngsteadt, an insect ecologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “The question is now, Is there enough energy for ants to keep them going in this hotter situation?”

More than 20 quadrillion ants live on Earth (that’s 2.5 million ants for every human). These tiny invertebrates form the foundation of many ecosystems. They are soil aerators, seed dispersers, predators, and scavengers, Youngsteadt said. “They keep nutrients cycling through the system.” If we didn’t have ants in the forest, processes would slow down a lot, she explained. [Continue reading…]

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