Browsing by Subject "WOOD ANTS"

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  • Hakala, Sanja Maria; Seppä, Perttu; Heikkilä, Maria; Punttila, Pekka; Sorvari, Jouni; Helanterä, Heikki (2018)
    Coptoformica Muller, 1923 is a subgenus of Formica Linnaeus, 1758 that consists of c. a dozen species of ants that typically inhabit open grassy habitats and build small nest mounds. The most recent addition to the group is Formica fennica Seifert, 2000. The description was based on morphological characters, but the species status has not been confirmed by molecular methods. In this study, we use thirteen DNA microsatellite markers and a partial mitochondrial COI gene sequence to assess the species status of F. fennica, by comparing the genetic variation among samples identified as F. fennica and six other boreal Formica (Coptoformica) species. Most of the species studied form separate, discontinuous clusters in phylogenetic and spatial analyses with only little intraspecific genetic variation. However, both nuclear and mitochondrial markers fail to separate the species pair F. exsecta Nylander, 1846 and F. fennica despite established morphological differences. The genetic variation within the F. exsecta/fennica group is extensive, but reflects spatial rather than morphological differences. Finnish F. fennica populations studied so far should not be considered a separate species, but merely a morph of F. exsecta.
  • Lindstrom, Stafva; Timonen, Sari; Sundstrom, Liselotte (2021)
    In a subarctic climate, the seasonal shifts in temperature, precipitation, and plant cover drive the temporal changes in the microbial communities in the topsoil, forcing soil microbes to adapt or decline. Many organisms, such as mound-building ants, survive the cold winter owing to the favorable microclimate in their nest mounds. We have previously shown that the microbial communities in the nest of the ant Formica exsecta are significantly different from those in the surrounding bulk soil. In the current study, we identified taxa, which were consistently present in the nests over a study period of three years. Some taxa were also significantly enriched in the nest samples compared with spatially corresponding reference soils. We show that the bacterial communities in ant nests are temporally stable across years, whereas the fungal communities show greater variation. It seems that the activities of the ants contribute to unique biochemical processes in the secluded nest environment, and create opportunities for symbiotic interactions between the ants and the microbes. Over time, the microbial communities may come to diverge, due to drift and selection, especially given the long lifespan (up to 30 years) of the ant colonies.
  • Punttila, Pekka; Autio, Olli; Kotiaho, Janne S.; Kotze, D. Johan; Loukola, Olli J.; Noreika, Norbertas; Vuori, Anna; Vepsäläinen, Kari (2016)
    Habitat loss and degradation are the main threats to biodiversity worldwide. For example, nearly 80% of peatlands in southern Finland have been drained. There is thus a need to safeguard the remaining pristine mires and to restore degraded ones. Ants play a pivotal role in many ecosystems and like many keystone plant species, shape ecosystem conditions for other biota. The effects of mire restoration and subsequent vegetation succession on ants, however, are poorly understood. We inventoried tree stands, vegetation, water-table level, and ants (with pitfall traps) in nine mires in southern Finland to explore differences in habitats, vegetation and ant assemblages among pristine, drained (30-40 years ago) and recently restored (1-3 years ago) pine mires. We expected that restoring the water-table level by ditch filling and reconstructing sparse tree stands by cuttings will recover mire vegetation and ants. We found predictable responses in habitat structure, floristic composition and ant assemblage structure both to drainage and restoration. However, for mire-specialist ants the results were variable and longer-term monitoring is needed to confirm the success of restoration since these social insects establish perennial colonies with long colony cycles. We conclude that restoring the water-table level and tree stand structure seem to recover the characteristic vegetation and ant assemblages in the short term. This recovery was likely enhanced because drained mires still had both acrotelm and catotelm, and connectedness was still reasonable for mire organisms to recolonize the restored mires either from local refugia or from populations of nearby mires.
  • Johansson, Helena; Seppä, Perttu Vilho; Helanterä, Heikki Oskari; Trontti, Niilo Kalevi; Sundström, Liselotte (2018)
    Dispersal is a fundamental trait of a species' biology. High dispersal results in weakly structured or even panmictic populations over large areas, whereas weak dispersal enables population differentiation and strong spatial structuring. We report on the genetic population structure in the polygyne ant Formica fusca and the relative contribution of the dispersing males and females to this. We sampled 12 localities across a similar to 35 km(2) study area in Finland and generated mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotype data and microsatellite data. First, we assessed queen dispersal by estimating population differentiation from mtDNA haplotype data. Second, we analysed nuclear DNA microsatellite data to determine overall population genetic substructure in the study area with principal components analysis, Bayesian clustering, hierarchical F statistics and testing for evidence of isolation-by-distance. Third, we directly compared genetic differentiation estimates from maternally inherited mtDNA and bi-parentally inherited DNA microsatellites to test for sex-bias in dispersal. Our results showed no significant spatial structure or isolation by distance in neither mtDNA nor DNA microsatellite data, suggesting high dispersal of both sexes across the study area. However, mitochondrial differentiation was weaker (Fst-mt = 0.0047) than nuclear differentiation (Fst-nuc = 0.027), which translates into a sixfold larger female migration rate compared to that of males. We conclude that the weak population substructure reflects high dispersal in both sexes, and it is consistent with F. fusca as a pioneer species exploiting unstable habitats in successional boreal forests.