Meccas for Myrmecology: Mobile, Alabama

Spread the love
mobile1
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.

mobile2

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.

3 thoughts on “Meccas for Myrmecology: Mobile, Alabama”

  1. When rewiring a light post in my front yard in Mobile, Alabama, hundreds of very large ants came pouring out of the post from underground. They occasionally jumped and it made a sort of clicking noise. Their actions were aggressive and obviously agitated, yet not toward me as I kept my distance. They were very fast and had a sort of odd shaped head, not being round. They were quite dark in color and they quickly disappeared into the grass below. I should have captured a few of them for identification purposes, but that was not foremost on my mind at the time.
    I did not recognize these ants, even having graduated in Biology from the University of South Alabama a few years ago. I did a few searches on the internet and the closest description and photographs were that of the Myrmeciinae Myrmecia. I found no information on this ant having taken residence in North America. If you have any information on what I described, please comment and I will be notified.

    1. I think you are describing a trap-jaw ant. I live in west mobile, and I just found one in the house. They are capable of jumping by slamming their jaws shut, which Im told makes a clicking noise. The one I’ve captured hasnt jumped yet, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.

Leave a Reply