After defending my PhD at the Autonomous University of Barcelona we (my husband and I) returned to Argentina on 2007. Here, I got involved in the research project of Dr Alejandro Farji-Brener who investigates which factors favour the increase of the geographic range of Acromyrmex lobicornis. This leaf cutting ant is moving toward the south of Argentina and had already been found in the east limit of the National Park Nahuel Huapi, 15 km from the city of Bariloche (41º S, 72º W). In order to investigate if plasticity of nest arquitecture, diet choice and foraging activity allow this ant species to colonize new areas, I compared two populations, one located in the north of Argentina (Cafayate, Salta, 26º S, 65º W) and the other in the center of Argentina (San Cristóbal, Santa Fe, 30º S, 61º W).
Very happy after finding the first nest of Acromyrmex lobicornis at El Moyar an area 12km close to Cafayate a very nice village from the north of Argentina. I should follow the activity of the same ten nests for one year.
As part of my curiosity I excaveted an Acromyrmex lobicornis nest. I reached the first fungi chamber and here you can see a piece of fungi garden with some larvae in gaps and a A. lobicornis big worker at the left. If you enlarge the photo you can see the lobule at the base of the antenna (this is a taxonomic trait for Acromyrmex sp)
I love filming ant activities. When you see on a large TV screen what you had filmed you discover nice details of ant behaviour.
A. lobicornis nest are really different depending on the site. At Santa Fe this ant species built domes. Here I was sampling damp material.
It is really nice to share the field with the ants. Here I was at my camp where I lived for 12 days to invest less time in travelling from the village to the field. In my opinion organization is very important to do your field work properlly.
Leaf cutting ants vs. Linepithema humile
I chose the National Park of Iguazú for our research project because this area has been identified as a biodiversity hotspot at global scale. We are applying the ALL protocol to sample ants (pitfall, winklers and subterranean baited probes). In this way our data will be comparable to the information of other rainforest areas. This will be the first step of a bigger project trying to sample the ant community along the green corridor of Misiones Province. This corridor links some natural areas, protected areas and private areas in a good stage of conservation. Our big goal is to relate the composition of the ground-dwelling ant community to historical land use. We also hope to add some new records for myrmecology and to encourage students to become enthusiast ant taxonomists.
|The red line shows the limit of the areas included in the green corridor of Misiones province. Light green represent protected areas occupying |