In the 16th century when Spanish ships were going to Philippines from Acapulco, Mexico they were unknowingly moving tropical ants with them. A study by Andrew Suraez of University of Illinois says that along with the vessels tiny ants used to travel from one area to another.
Study says, “A lot of these ships, particularly if they were going somewhere to pick up commerce, would fill their ballast with soil and then they would dump the soil out in a new port and replace it with cargo.”
“They were unknowingly moving huge numbers of organisms in the ballast soil. Invasive ants are a huge problem. Once they arrive, they establish really high densities in new habitats, with negative consequences for agriculture, native species and human quality of life,” said co-researcher Sara Helms Cahan from the University of Vermont.
Research says, “The ants from the introduced areas in the Old World are genetically most similar to ants from southwestern Mexico, suggesting that their source population came from this region”. These tropical ants can be now found in almost all the regions like Africa, Australia, India and Southeast Asia.
These tropical fire ants establish high density colonies once they reach a new habitat. Every year millions of dollars are spent to control the population of ants. “Invasive ants are a huge problem. Once they arrive, they establish really high densities in new habitats, with negative consequences for agriculture, native species and human quality of life,” says Sara Helms.
This was reported in the journal Molecular Ecology.