A salt-pan species of Melophorus ants

Ruediger Wehner, Sibylle Wehner, and Ken Cheng went to look for this species of ants in December 2011 in the salt pans of South Australia. We have seen reports of this species based on studies on the Lake Eyre dragon, a lizard that feeds on these ants. They are reportedly found at various salt lakes.

In our searches, we have found them at Lake Eyre South, Lake Torrens, and Lake Hart. Later, in our first studies of the ant, we also found them at Eucolo Creek. Eucolo Creek and Lake Hart make convenient field sites because they are right on the side of Stuart Highway, a major road linking South Australia to Northern Territory.

The salt lakes look like beautiful white fields, but they can get muddy when it rains.

field1

Eucolo Creek, photo by Sabine Nooten

 

field2

Lake Hart, photo by Patrick Schultheiss


The ants

They are small blackish ants some 3-7 mm in length. We have not measured them properly yet.

ant1 ant2 ant3

Photos by Sebastian Schwarz

 

Sometimes, they leave 'towers' around their nest entrance from cleaning out the nest.

nest1

Photo by Sabine Nooten

The beautiful pile typically degrades over time:

nest2 photo by Sebastian Schwarz

We have one paper on this species (Schultheiss et al., 2012, Australian Journal of Zoology), and are preparing others.


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