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Keywords:

  • biodiversity;
  • Formicidae;
  • global warming;
  • insect;
  • physiology;
  • temperature

Abstract

Effects of climate warming on wild populations of organisms are expected to be greatest at higher latitudes, paralleling greater anticipated increases in temperature in these regions. Yet, these expectations assume that populations in different regions are equally susceptible to the effects of warming. This is unlikely to be the case. Here, we develop a series of predictive models for physiological thermal tolerances in ants based on current and future climates. We found that tropical ants have lower warming tolerances, a metric of susceptibility to climate warming, than temperate ants despite greater increases in temperature at higher latitudes. Using climatic, ecological and phylogenetic data, we refine our predictions of which ants (across all regions) were most susceptible to climate warming. We found that ants occupying warmer and more mesic forested habitats at lower elevations are the most physiologically susceptible to deleterious effects of climate warming. Phylogenetic history was also a strong indicator of physiological susceptibility. In short, we find that ants that live in the canopies of hot, tropical forest are the most at risk, globally, from climate warming. Unfortunately this is where many, perhaps most, ant and other species on Earth live.