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 Post subject: Sri Lanka relict ant >> endemic >>
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 3:29 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:43 pm
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Location: Wattala
Living endemic invertibrate fossils impelled to extinction

There are 12 subfamilies of ants recorded from our island. Amongst the numerous species of ants present here, the Sri Lanka Relict ant (Aneuretus simony Emery) represents the Aneuretinae sub family. This endemic ant possesses a significant importance because most scientists and researchers deem the Sri Lanka Relict ant as a living fossil due to the fact of it being the sole living species of the above mentioned sub family Aneuretinae.

Image

source: DM/Saturday, July 14, 2007
By Rashmini de Silva


Ants could be described as social beings leading conjunctive life styles similar to humans. Various species of these invertebrates are pervasively colonized in our planet and have been subsisting, adapting to countless fluctuations for millions of years These fascinating creatures have quite interesting behaviour patterns and play an immense role in the maintenance of a balanced eco system. Dividing their colonies to castes is an extremely special characteristic of these creatures; there are 4 castes identified, workers, males, winged reproductives and wingless queen.

There are 12 subfamilies of ants recorded from our island. Amongst the numerous species of ants present here, the Sri Lanka Relict ant (Aneuretus simony Emery) represents the Aneuretinae sub family. This endemic ant possesses a significant importance because most scientists and researchers deem the Sri Lanka Relict ant as a living fossil due to the fact of it being the sole living species of the above mentioned sub family Aneuretinae. Fossils of other species in this sub family that are millions of years old have been found from countries in the Asian region such as China and Burma and from the United States. This endemic ant is the first invertebrate to enter the IUCN Redlist, As a result of being exposed to numerous threats these ants are scarce in the forests of our island and is considered to be critically endangered.

Restricted to the Ratnapura district, the Sri Lanka Relict ant inhabits in the forests of Pompekelle, Gilimale and Sinharaja. This species was first discovered in our island in 1893. According to Dr.Sriyani Dias, senior lecturer in the department of zoology of the University of Kelaniya, a colony of this species consists of major and minor workers and queens who are more commonly referred to as “reproductive females”. Individuals in the working caste are brownish orange in colour and grow up to 1.7-2.9 mm in length. These ants have simple claws at the end of each of the three pairs svelte legs and a functional and trenchant sting located at the tip of the gaster. These invertebrates dwell in decaying wood and leaf litter associated soil and high soil humidity is essential for the survival of them. The Sri Lanka relict ant is reported to be omnivorous; it consumes decaying plant matter and tiny insects such as mites in its regular diet.

Colonies of the Sri Lanka relict ant is confined to the Ratnapura district mainly to the Pompekelle and Gilimale forests. Pompekelle is the forest associated with the city reservoir in Ratnapura. Once an area with a high density of trees and undergrowth is now degenerated to concrete pillars and buildings. The population of the Sri Lanka relict ant in these areas is severely fragmented at present. Pollution and habitat destruction are the main periling factors that act towards the eradication of these creatures. Human interferences and disturbances also contribute into the subjugation of these fascinating invertebrates. Dr.Sriyani Dias’s research reveals that the density of relict ant colonies in Gilimale is around 0.3 per square meter. This indicates the status of the patchy distribution of this species.

Despite the vast number of threats the Sri Lanka Relict ant experience, it is still surviving in Sri Lanka, adapting to urbanization and various disturbances, yet we cannot ignore the decreasing number of the population of this species. Just as its name suggest the relict ant is a species surviving as a remnant of an otherwise extinct fauna in an environment much changed from that in which it was originated. Preservation of an ant confronting grievous vulnerability would be an exceedingly insignificant matter to most of us, focusing on its remarkable historical and ecological value; the Sri Lanka Relict ant’s drastic reduction should be barricaded without further delay. Therefore endorsing any type of program or project to conserve this endemic invertebrate, the only member in the Aneuretinae sub family in this entire planet, should be initiated by the relevant authorities immediately.


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