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The Science and Research Fund

Ants in geothermal areas in South Iceland. Are they natural in Iceland?

Marko Mancini, PhD student in Biology at the University of Iceland

Marko Mancini investigates whether ants of the species Hypopenera eduardi can be found in geothermal areas in South Iceland.

According to the Natural History Institute of Iceland, ants were found at Gunnuhver in the summers of 2001 and 2002. We then found ants in Reykjadal by Hveragerði in the summer of 2020. From this it can be deduced that ants stay in geothermal areas in Iceland.

Marco Mancini.

Ants in Iceland

We investigated several geothermal areas in the South and the West and found ants in five areas. Results indicate that ants thrive at 25-30°C. In addition, DNA studies and behavioral patterns indicate that H. eduardi ant populations in Iceland are closely related.

Two main hypotheses about their colonization hold, 1) the ants have recently occupied land here in harmony with man and 2) they could have covered land without the arrival of man (after the peak of the last ice age when the temperature in Iceland was a few degrees higher than it is now). Thanks to the grant, we will have the opportunity to investigate these two interesting hypotheses.

Aerial view of one of the study areas. (Photo from the collection of Marko Mancini).

Unique habitats are found in geothermal areas

Our goal will be to increase understanding of the biodiversity and colonization of ants in regions with cold temperate climates, as well as the nature and effects of the introduction of organisms that can affect unique habitats found in geothermal areas. Thanks to the support of the Science and Research Fund Suðurland 2022, we had the opportunity to study the distribution, ecology and analyze the genetic structure of the Hypoponera eduardi ant population found in Iceland in geothermal areas. Our work, as part of my PhD and the master’s of one of my fellow students, will examine these issues and the hypotheses above about the colonization of ants to Iceland.

Aerial view of one of the study areas. (Photo from the collection of Marko Mancini).