, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 118–124 | Cite as

Soil texture as an influence on the distribution of the desert seed-harvester ants Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Messor pergandei

  • Robert A. Johnson
Original Papers


Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Messor pergandei are ecologically similar species of desert seed-harvester ants that coexist in numerous areas throughout the Sonoran and Mohave Deserts. However, these two species also commonly segregate along physical gradients, with each species predominating in areas that differ in soil texture and/or topographic relief. Along gradients that included bajada and alluvial flat habitats, P. rugosus occurred alone in coarse-textured soils near mountains, while M. pergandei occurred alone in finer-textured soils further away. Conversely, along a vegetation gradient that included creosote bush and saltbush habitats, P. rugosus occurred alone in finer-textured soils than those occupied by either M. pergandei alone or both species in coexistence. However, in both situations clay content was significantly higher in areas occupied by P. rugosus alone, and at the latter site clay content was correlated with relative abundance of each species. Moreover, local distribution pattern of these two species may be related to the effects of clay on water retention, with retention being highest in areas occupied by P. rugosus alone. Differences in reproductive ecology may also affect these patterns as P. rugosus reproductive flights follow summer monsoon rains, while those of M. pergandei occur during the milder winter and spring.

Key words

Ants Distribution pattern Soil texture Sonoran desert 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alizai HU, Hulbert LC (1970) Effects of soil texture on evaporative loss and available water in semi-arid climates. Soil Sci 110:328–332Google Scholar
  2. Bernstein RA (1974) Seasonal food abundance and foraging activity in some desert ants. Am Nat 108:490–498Google Scholar
  3. Bernstein RA (1975) Foraging strategies of ants in response to variable food density. Ecology 56:213–219Google Scholar
  4. Bolton B (1982) Afrotropical species of the myrmicine ant genera Cardiocondyla, Leptothorax, Melissotarsus, Messor, and Cataulacus (Formicidae). Bull Brit Mus (Nat Hist) 45:307–370Google Scholar
  5. Bowers MA, Brown JH (1982) Body size and coexistence in desert rodents: chance or community structure? Ecology 63:391–400Google Scholar
  6. Brown JH (1975) Geographical ecology of desert rodents. In: Cody ML, Diamond JM (eds) Ecology and Evolution of Communities, Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 315–341Google Scholar
  7. Cole B (1983) Assembly of mangrove ant communities: patterns of geographical distribution. J Anim Ecol 52:339–347Google Scholar
  8. Davidson DW (1977a) Species diversity and community organization in desert seed-harvester ants. Ecology 58: 711–724Google Scholar
  9. Davidson DW (1977b) Foraging ecology and community organization in desert seed-harvester ants. Ecology 58: 725–737Google Scholar
  10. Davidson (1978) Size variability in the worker caste of a social insect (Veromessor pergandei Mayer) as a function of the competitive environment. Am Nat 112: 523–532Google Scholar
  11. Day PR (1965) Particle fractionation and particle-size analysis. In: Black CA (ed) Methods of Soil Analysis. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, Wisconsin, pp 545–567Google Scholar
  12. Diamond JM (1975) Assembly of species communities. In: Cody ML, Diamond JM (eds) Ecology and Evolution of Communities, Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 342–443Google Scholar
  13. Grant WJ, Struchtemeyer RA (1959) Influence of the coarse fraction in two Maine potato soils on infiltration, runoff, and erosion. Soil Sci Soc Amer Proc 23: 391–394Google Scholar
  14. Hillel D (1971) Soil and water: physical principles and processes. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Hillel D, Tadmore N (1962) Water regime and vegetation in the Central Negev Highlands of Israel. Ecology 43: 33–41Google Scholar
  16. Hölldobler B (1976) The behavioral ecology of mating in harvester ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Pogonomyrmex). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 1: 405–423Google Scholar
  17. Hull CH, Nie NH (1981) SPSS Update 7–9. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Hutchinson GE (1959) Homage to Santa Rosalia, or “Why are there so many kinds of animals?” Am Nat 93: 145–159Google Scholar
  19. Lighton JRB, Feener DH Jr (1989) Water-rate loss and cuticular permeability in foragers of the desert ant Pogonomyrmex rugosus. Physiol Zool 62: 1232–1256Google Scholar
  20. Louw GN, Seely MK (1982) Ecology of desert organisms. Longman Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. MacArthur RH (1958) Population ecology of some warblers of northeastern coniferous forests. Ecology 39: 599–619Google Scholar
  22. Marshall TJ, Holmes JW (1988) Soil physics. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  23. Mehlhop P, Scott NJ Jr (1983) Temporal patterns of seed use and availability in a guild of desert ants. Ecol Entomol 8: 69–85Google Scholar
  24. Munn L, Harrington N, McGirr DR (1987) Rock fragments. In: Williams RD, Schuman GE (eds) Reclaiming Mine Soils and Overburden in the Western United States. Soil Conservation Society of America, pp 259–282Google Scholar
  25. Pollock GB, Rissing SW (1985) Mating season and colony foundation of the seed-harvester ant Veromessor pergandei. Psyche 92: 125–134Google Scholar
  26. Pyke GH (1982) Local geographic distributions of bumblebees near Crested Butte, Colorado: competition and community structure. Ecology 63: 555–573Google Scholar
  27. Rissing SW (1981) Foraging specializations in seed-harvester ants. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 9: 149–152Google Scholar
  28. Rissing SW (1988a) Dietary similarity and foraging range of two seed-harvester ants during resource fluctuations. Oecologia 75: 362–366Google Scholar
  29. Rissing SW (1988b) Seed-harvester ant association with shrubs: competition for water in the Mohave Desert? Ecology 69: 809–813Google Scholar
  30. Rissing SW, Pollock GB (1989) Behavioral ecoogy and community organization of desert seed-harvester ants. J Arid Environm 17: 167–173Google Scholar
  31. Ryti RT, Case TJ (1984) Spatial arrangement and diet overlap between colonies of desert ants. Oecologia 62: 401–404Google Scholar
  32. Ryti RT, Case TJ (1986) Overdispersion of ant colonies: a test of hypotheses. Oecologia 69: 446–453Google Scholar
  33. Ryti RT, Case TJ (1988) Field experiments on desert ants: testing for competition between colonies. Ecology 69: 1993–2003Google Scholar
  34. Turner RM, Brown DE (1982) Sonoran desertscrub. Desert Plants 4: 181–221Google Scholar
  35. Wheeler J, Rissing SW (1975) Natural history of Veromessor pergandei. I. The nest. Pan-Pacific Entomol 51: 205–216Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoology DepartmentArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations