Australian ant research: fabulous fauna, functional groups, pharmaceuticals, and the Fatherhood
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Apart from flies, ants are Australia's most noticeable and studied insects. In addition to their sheer abundance and ubiquity in most terrestrial ecosystems, they are also exceptionally diverse. Here, we outline the history of describing the Australian ant fauna and document the resources that are available for identifying and researching them. Unusual patterns in chromosome numbers in individual species are discussed, and the rediscovery of an ancient ant is described. A framework for understanding the dynamics of Australian ant communities is outlined, and the functional groups that fall within this framework are documented. The predictability of responses of ant communities to stress and disturbance has enabled a protocol for using ants as bioindicators of environmental health and integrity to be developed. This has been exported and adapted to other regions of the world. Australian ant research has also lead to promising sources of biopharmaceuticals.
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