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Cruise visit to Cayman nets discovery of new ant species

It’s been said that ants are knowing and wise, but don’t know enough to take a vacation.

One myrmecologist, Greek for a person who studies ants, spent his Cayman vacation not in the sands of Seven Mile Beach, but in the mangroves, coming across a new species of ant only known to exist in Camana Bay.

From Stingray City to Seven Mile Beach, Cayman has no shortage of activities to amuse and entertain cruise ship passengers, but visiting myrmecologist Dr. James Wetterer of Florida Atlantic University had other plans for his cruise visit in April.

“I made a beeline to the nearest red mangroves to the cruise dock which was in Camana Bay,” said Dr. Wetterer, speaking to Cayman 27 via telephone.

While traipsing through the mangroves, Dr. Wetterer made a curious find.

“I went out there and I collected this ant that I had not seen before, I didn’t have a microscope on the ship so I couldn’t really see, but it looked and it behaved like pretty much the most common ant in the red mangroves in Florida, only with very different color. In Florida they’re all yellow, in the Cayman Islands it was yellow with a dark rear end.

He sent specimens to ant expert Dr, Roberto Guerro at the Universidad del Magdalena in Colombia.

“It turns out they are closely related but it was a species that has never been seen before, and he’s describing it as a new species,” said Dr. Wetterer.

Dr. Wetterer told Cayman 27 the new ant species is the only ant known only from Cayman. He returned in December to collect additional specimens and search other areas for the same ant. He said so far, it’s only been found in the mangroves near Camana Bay.

“I mean, it would be pretty wild if that were the only place they occur, which it seems unlikely, I just did not get a lot in my two days of looking,” said Dr. Wetterer.

Dr. Wetterer said he hopes to return to Cayman to comb the island for more evidence of this ant species.

Dr. Wetterer said  the new species won’t be unnamed for long. He told Cayman 27 it will be named after him once the new species has been published. The rule is, a new species’ name can’t be used until publication in a scientific journal.

He suspects another ant he collected in his two Cayman visits could be an additional new species, however there are no taxonomists studying that particular genus.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to josephavary@hurleysmedia.ky

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