This Scientist Discovered an Ant Species in His Own Backyard

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This article appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Discover magazine as “A New Ant in Town.” Subscribe for more stories like these.


The work of finding and classifying new species — taxonomy — shows a strong regional bias. As Jack Longino, a biologist at the University of Utah, describes it, most of the species native to Europe and North America already have been discovered. So, most modern taxonomists, no matter where they’re from, tend to conduct their research in tropical climates, where the less-studied landscapes house a greater diversity of organisms. Longino himself has spent most of his career traveling to the rainforests of Central America. Hunting for ants nesting in dead wood, he has found over 100 new species. But when Longino discovered a new ant species, Strumigenys ananeotes, in the summer of 2018, the real surprise wasn’t that he found it so much as…

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