Tourists flock to Amazonian jungle lodges hoping to find monkeys, toucans, and jaguars, but most of the animals they see are insects. Especially, ants. The Amazon region contains more than 1,000 species, many still formally undescribed, and they basically run the place. The leafcutter ants and their fungi are the forest’s premiere herbivores, the army ants are an ever-present apex predator, the others are scavengers, soil-churners, predators, and partners in the defense of numerous jungle plants. The jungle without ants would be a different, depauperate place.
Because every rainforest adventurer encounters ants, and because no decent guides exist to help general naturalists identify the more common species, I have created the following bestiary of Amazonian ants. I do not- and cannot- illustrate all those that occur in the region. I can, however, cover the formicids most likely to be noticed by a casual visitor. (more…)