Lambir subterranean ant project (proposal)

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Subterranean Ant Project – Marlee & Sam

Introduction There are many species of subterranean ant species in the rainforest, however these species have previously been difficult to study. Recently, a new trapping method has been developed to make the capture of these ants possible. Ryder Wilkie et al. (2007) developed this new sampling technique. To study subterranean ants in the Amazon, they drilled a meter into the soil in the forest and placed a PVC tube with holes and bait inside the drilled hole. The ants were then trapped in the PVC pipe at the level they entered. This experiment found an amazing variety of species and lots of different species at different soil depths. This previous study looked at the variety of ant species at various levels of the same site, however the technique used could be applied to study any aspect of subterranean ants. We believe that just as ant species changed with soil depth in the Wilkie's study, ant species will also change with differing soil types.

Questions Does soil type affect the biodiversity of subterranean ants? Our hypothesis is that soil type does affect the biodiversity of subterranean ants. Specifically, we believe that there is a greater biodiversity of subterranean ants in Loam soil when compared to the other types of soils present in the CTFS plot of Lambir National Park. According to Leigh (2004), different soil types allow for different tree species to be dominant. Novotny (2006) also implies that the plant species present influence the types of herbivorous insect species. Therefore, we would expect different ant species on different soils. This experiment will examine the influence of soil types on ant biodiversity.

Methods 1.The ant samples will be collected by placing empty water bottles in cylindrical holes. 2.Three samples will be taken from each of the three soil types for a total of 9 water bottle traps. 3.These water bottles will have many holes cut with a small knife along the length of the bottle and will contain a sticky substance (most likely a thick sugar solution) which will serve as bait and as a trap for the ants. 4.The traps will be left in their respective soils for 24hrs 5.The ant samples will then be identified, counted, and separated into species using microscopes. 6.The results of these observations will be statistically analysed using “R” software.

Analysis Our statistical hypothesis is that there will be a significant difference in the mean number of ant species found at each site based on soil type. Our null hypothesis is that there is no change in ant species diversity between soil types and our alternative hypothesis is that there will be a significant change in ant species diversity across different soil types. We will analyse the data using the t.test in the ‘R’ statistical program. The t.test will compare the means of the number of ant species for each type of soil. The results of the t.test will show whether the differences between soil dwelling ant samples from different soils is significant. IF significant, then we can conclude that different types of soil strongly affect the types of subterranean ants that live in the soil. If it also turns out that the soil with the most biodiversity of plants has the highest biodiversity of ants, then this could also be used as evidence of Novotny‘s (2006) theory that high plant diversity influences the diversity of herbivorous insects.


Leigh, E. G. (2004), 'Why do some Tropical Forests Have So Many Species of Trees?', Biotropica, 36(4), 447-473.

Novotny, V., Drozd, P., Miller, S. E., Kulfan, M., Janda, M., Basset, Y., Weiblen, G. D. (2006), 'Why Are There So Many Species of Herbivorous Insects in the Tropical Rainforest?', Science, 313, 1115-1118.

Ryder Wilkie, K.T., Mertl, A.L. & Traniello, J. F. A. (2007), 'Biodiversity below ground: probing the subterranean ant fauna of Amazonia', Naturwissenschaften, 94, 725-731.