The Ants Came Marching: Did Periods of Arctic Warming Help Giant Ants Migrate?

I guess you could say that I have been programmed to notice giant creepy crawly things. Starting when my son brought home a book about “Real Life Monsters”, my family has not been able to stop talking about one of the book’s featured monsters, the Goliath Bird Eater spider. While the book’s other stars, the giant squids and great white sharks, were pronounced by my son to be “cool”, a spider that is the size of a dinner plate and eats birds, is the thing of nightmares. Both my kids will fearfully bring up these giant arachnids anytime a hairy spider is spotted. [Note: Goliath Bird Eaters live in South America, not Wisconsin].

Photo by April Noble www.antweb.og

Given the number of family discussions I have had about gigantic arachnids, it was only natural that a headline about a hummingbird-sized ant that once roamed Wyoming caught my attention (1). Although there are living species of giant ants, the Wyoming ant is the first fossil from the extinct ant family Formiciinae to be found in the Western Hemisphere. The ant lived in the early Eocene (~49.5 Million years ago). And, unlike the cool climate insect taxa previously known to be shared between North America and Europe, this new ant, Titanomyrma lubei, was a thermophilic insect. Continue reading “The Ants Came Marching: Did Periods of Arctic Warming Help Giant Ants Migrate?”