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The port at Mobile, Alabama, photographed from across the bay.

The port city of Mobile, Alabama holds special significance for students of ant science.  Jo-anne and I took a weekend trip down to the gulf coast in January, and as we are both myrmecologists we felt compelled to stop and take a few photographs.  Not only is Mobile the childhood home of ant guru E. O. Wilson, but the city’s docks have been the point of introduction into North America for some notorious pest ants.  We’d have neglected our intellectual heritage to just drive through.

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Mobile’s busy international commerce has made it ground zero for several biological invasions, mostly stowaway species carried accidentally in cargo.   The most famous is the red fire ant Solenopsis invicta, but it is likely that the port also welcomed the South American big-headed ant Pheidole obscurithorax and the rover ant Brachymyrmex patagonicus.  Below are portraits of Mobile’s evil ant spawn:

Solenopsis invicta

Solenopsis invicta

Pheidole obscurithorax

Pheidole obscurithorax

Brachymyrmex patagonicus

Brachymyrmex patagonicus

Oddly, all three of these ants are from the Paraguay river basin.  It’s as if Mobile is a wormhole through which the South American ant fauna transports itself for reassembly in the northern hemisphere.