Ever heard about an ant species and wondered about its distribution? There's an awesome new website that can put the world of ants at your finger tips: Antmaps.org.
This fully interactive resource shows where to find some 15,000 different species and subspecies of ants. The cover map shows species richness or number of ant species found in a given region. Color coding of retrieved maps reveals whether the ants are native, introduced, or survive indoors, as well.
Say you want to find the distribution of the army ant, Eciton burchelli.
(Public domain photograph of Eciton burchelli by Alex Wild)
With a few simple clicks and scroll down menus, you can soon see:
According to the map, Eciton burchelli is found in Central and South America. The green areas indicate the areas where the army ants are native.
Sometimes these types of websites are revealed too soon and are clunky to use, but that is not the case here. The map creation process seems to have all the "bugs" worked out, so to speak. Antmaps turns out to be a quick way to get an idea of where to find a particular species of ant without searching through hundreds of references by hand. The authors do concede that the database is a work in progress and ask that myrmecologists help verify the records by reporting errors.
Antmaps.org is a joint venture between the University of Hong Kong and the Okinawa Institute of Sciences and Technology, led by Dr. Benoit Guenard and Evan Economo, in collaboration with Michael Weiser, Kiko Gomez, and Nitish Narula, among others. It is part of the The Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics (GABI) project.
Have you used Antmaps yet? What did you think of it?