Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation
Essays and Perspectives
Influence of soil granulometry on average body size in soil ant assemblages: implications for bioindication
Cinthia Borges da Costa-Milaneza,, , Jonathan D. Majerb,c, Paulo de Tarso Amorim Castrod, Sérvio Pontes Ribeiroa
a Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Canopy Insects and Natural Succession, Department of Biodiversity, Evolution and Environment, ICEB, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Campus Morro do Cruzeiro, M.G., Brazil
b School of Biological Sciences, University of Western, Perth, Australia
c Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
d Department of Geology, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Campus Morro do Cruzeiro, M.G., Brazil
Received 29 November 2016, Accepted 31 March 2017

Soil granulometric composition can impose constraints on ant species living in ground habitats, being an important factor in defining the habitat templet, which describes how certain animal life histories, including the trait of body size, can be selected. The ant fauna plays a central role in soil formation, and a vast literature describes such influence, but not the converse. Along with termites, worms and other invertebrates, these organisms promote the formation of channels, pores, and aggregates that influence gases and water moving through the soil profile. On the other hand, it is important to understand whether soil traits constrain insect colonization, so we here ask how soil traits can influence niche specificities, which seems to be a neglected ecological issue. A literature search using the key words ‘ants or Formicidae’ and ‘soil structure or pedogenesis’ revealed numerous references dealing with the influence of ants on soil, but not conversely. We here present a novel geomorphologic approach to habitat templets for two distinct riparian Neotropical ecosystems, based on the amalgamation of soil/sediment analysis with ecological processes and ant species biology. We found that predominance of fine grains favoured the preponderance of small ant species at a threshold of <5mm in body length. Based on this, we propose the use of a quantitative, theoretically sound, statistical approach to bioindication.


  • The soil texture is one of the determinant factors for ant's species distribution and colonization.

  • The relationship between soil texture and ant body size influences the survival rate of colonies and then the relative density of species.

  • Changes in soil texture may promote colonization by more aggressive and generalist ants species.

  • Ants can be used as a tool bioindication of change in soil granulometry promoted by mining and monoculture activities.

Mining, Rehabilitation, Veredas, Wetland, Soil texture