Friday, August 13

Ants taking over Austrailia

First it was the killer formic acid spraying ants from India, who have done a number on some of Australia's native animal poulations. From the BBC
Killer ants threaten Australia
An infestation of ants which is attacking numerous animal species in Australia is threatening to spread across the country, scientists have warned.

Described as one of the world's most vicious species of ant, the yellow crazy ant sprays formic acid into the eyes of other animals, leaving them vulnerable to attack and unable to feed themselves.

One-centimetre long
So named because of their erratic behaviour when a nest is disturbed
Originally from India

The ants have already wiped out up to 20 million red crabs, as well as birds and other animals on Australia's Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean since 1989, and have since spread to 63 locations in the Northern Territory on the mainland.

Canberra's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) warned on Friday that, if left unchecked, ant populations would proliferate across Northern Australia and beyond.

"It is simply a matter of when will it happen," said CSIRO researcher Ben Hoffmann.

This little yellow crazy ant will destroy our culture, our land, our life
Aboriginal ranger Balupalu Yunupingu

Mr Hoffmann said the ants' victims died, not from the attack, but from starvation because they were blind.

The CSIRO, in association with two Aboriginal land management groups, is developing a three-year plan to wipe out a large infestation centred on a 90-kilometre (56 mile) radius around the mining town of Nhulunbuy, on the north-eastern tip of the Northern Territory.
First they got to Christmas Island from India. Now they are on the North coast of Austrailia. And in other ant related news, a 100 kilometer sized colony of ants has been uncovered in Melbourne. Originally from Argentina, these guys at least lack the formic acid spraying abilities of their Indian counterparts. Also from the BBC.
A giant colony of ants stretching 100km (62 miles) has been discovered in the Australian city of Melbourne, threatening local insect species.

The ants, which were imported from Argentina, are ranked among the world's 100 worst animal invaders.

Although they exist in their usual smaller group size in their homeland, the colonies have merged in Australia to create one massive super colony.

Experts fear that the invasion poses a threat to biodiversity in the area.

Introduced pest

Elissa Suhr, from Monash University, Melbourne, said the introduced pest's natural aggression kept numbers under control in its native country.

But the lack of genetic diversity in the ants found in Australia has allowed them to build a super colony.

"In Argentina, their native homeland, ant colonies span tens of metres, are genetically diverse and highly aggressive towards one another," Dr Suhr said.

"So population numbers never explode and they are no threat to other plants and animals.

"When they arrived in Australia, in 1939, a change in their structure occurred, changing their behaviour so that they are not aggressive towards one another. This has resulted in the colonies becoming one super colony."

Dr Suhr said the Argentine ants have killed native ants, and consumed many other insects, posing a major threat to biodiversity.
They are going to test colonies in Perth, and Adelaide to determine if the ant colonies are related, and possibly extend across the Southern side of the Continent. How long before both colonies meet and who would prevail in such a meeting. Yet another example of how are world is slowly being screwed to death. Can't wait until a previously contained and unknown African viral strain drops a Malthusian boot on our asses.