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Keywords:

  • abundance ants;
  • diversity;
  • elevational gradients;
  • mammals;
  • Philippines

ABSTRACT

Ant communities were surveyed along an elevational gradient in the Philippines extending from lowland dipterocarp forest (250 m elevation) to mossy forest (1750 m). Standardized pitfall trapping in arboreal and terrestrial microhabitats at seven sites yielded 51 species. Collecting by hand at five of the sites yielded 48 species. The two methods produced substantially different assemblages, with only 22 species (29%) taken in common. Only a fraction of the total ant community appeared to be sampled at most of the sites. Measures of species richness and relative abundance peaked at mid-elevations and declined sharply with increasing elevation. Ants were extremely rare above 1500 m elevation. Arboreal ants were trapped much less frequently than terrestrial ants at all sites. Ant species that were abundant had broader elevational distributions than those that were less common, but most species were rare and occurred at only one or two sites. The elevational patterns for ants are largely the inverse of those documented for Philippine small mammals which reach their greatest diversity and abundance at high elevations where ants are rare. This suggests that the two groups may interact competitively. Some of the patterns observed or inferred from this study may apply to tropical ant communities in general, and are presented as series of testable hypotheses as a guide and stimulus for future research.