A cerrado themed Myrmecos

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As Alex mentioned, I will be standing in here at the Myrmecos blog for a few weeks. I thought I would try and stay true to Alex’s main theme of photo-based posts, but with my own little twist. So, the theme for the next couple of weeks will be ants (and other beasts) of the cerrado.

Even hardened tropical biologists are often unfamiliar with cerrado, which is a unique savanna-like habitat that covers much of central Brazil and small areas of neighboring countries. It is the poor relation in terms of research effort in the Neotropics, as most are drawn to The Rain Forest, but it is a myrmecologists dream. Much like wet tropical forests, an area of nice cerrado will be home to hundreds of ant species. The wonderful thing about the cerrado, though, is that the ‘canopy’ usually tops out at around 5m. This brings all those great arboreal ant species within arms reach, or at least from the end of a small step ladder. That’s me on the ladder, with a motley crew of biologists helping out with the harvesting of an experiment.

Working with arboreal ants in the cerrado
Working with arboreal ants in the cerrado

My plan is to share with you all a few of my own snaps from within and below the cerrado canopy. They will, I am sure, be biased towards my two favorite groups of ants, the Ecitoninae (a.k.a. the New World army ants) and the genus Cephalotes (a.k.a. the turtle ants), but I will try to squeeze in a few other interesting animals along the way. My hope is that this will be an enjoyable diversion until I hand the reins back to Alex.

6 thoughts on “A cerrado themed Myrmecos”

  1. Hi Scott–I’ve been to the Cerrado but not had the opportunity to collect there. It looks much more favorable to my primary group also (Buprestidae), which are sun-loving and especially diverse in seasonally dry tropical habitats.

    I look forward to your photos.

    regards–ted

  2. I’d never even heard of cerrado. Thanks for increasing my knowledge! 🙂 Looking forward to the snaps.

    Does cerrado only occur in South America?

  3. James C. Trager

    Oh this will be great, Scott. I lived near and hunted ants in the cerrado for eight months back in 1984-85. Unfortunately, the only pictures I have are in my mind, but maybe I can share some of those, inspired by your commentaries.

    You may want to add more to this, Scott. But as to Zorro’s question, the cerrado is a type of tropical savanna, which in general terms can be described as grassland with variable density of drought and fire tolerant trees, depending on local soil and moisture conditions. Such areas tend to have a long dry season, when rainfall is irregular or sparse, and a wet season when things really perk up — plants leaf out and bloom, ants and termites have mating flights and found new colonies, etc. The tropical savanna biome has representatives at similar latitudes in Africa and Asia, and in the “bush” of northern Australia. However, the specific assemblage of organisms and the ecological communities that constitute the cerrado (in Brazil called campo limpo, campo cerrado, cerradão) occur only in South America.

  4. Thanks all for the comments! Zorro, glad to here that I introduced the cerrado to you. James’ summary of the cerrado is spot on (thanks James). I would only add that it also has high endemism rates for many taxa. We may get to some apparent Cephalotes endemics in these posts. I should have mentioned that I will talk about different aspects of the cerrado as we go along. For now, wikipedia has a pretty decent overview of the system. You can find it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerrado

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