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Metropolitan France (including continental France and the island of Corsica) is the part of France located in Europe. It is the largest country in Western Europe with 551 600 km2. France shares borders with 6 neighbouring countries : Spain to the South-West, Italy to the South-East, Germany and Switzerland to the East, Belgium and Luxembourg to the North-East.
The French landscapes are quite varied. Two thirds of France is hilly or mountainous, with Alps, Pyrenees, Massif Central, Vosges and Jura. Mont Blanc in the Alps is the highest mountain in Europe. The North-Western half of the country is relatively low-lying, with altitude mostly below 200 meters. The plain and plateaux of the Aquitaine basin and Paris basin cover most of the area. The south-Eastern half of the country is more rugged, the Rhône Valley and the Languedoc plain are bordered by large reliefs.
France is located mid way between the equator and North Pole. This gives to France a temperate climate. Along the South coast, Mediterranean climate prevails, with mild winters and hot and dry summers. Along Atlantic coast, the climate is rainy. Mountain areas and North- East areas (Lorraine, Alsace) tend to be colder.
Corsica (8700 km2) is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean Sea. The highest point is Monte Cinto (2700 meters). 20 peaks are above 2000 meters. The natural vegetation is Mediterranean forest and scrublands.
France holds an important place in the history of myrmecology. Initial work on French ants began with Guillaume Antoine Olivier (Histoire naturelle des Insectes, 1792) and Pierre-André Latreille (Essai sur l’histoire des fourmis de France, 1798) and continued with Wilhelm Nylander (Synopsis des Formicidés de France et d’Algérie, 1856), Ernest André (Species des Hymenoptères d’Europe et d’Algérie, 1883), Jean Bondroit (Les fourmis de France et de Belgique, 1918), Francis Bernard (Les fourmis d’Europe occidentale et septentrionale, 1968) and the contributions of Auguste Forel, Carlo Emery and Felix Santschi. The recent intensive myrmecological research by Xavier Espadaler, Bernhard Seifert, Alfred Buschinger, Birgit Schlick-Steiner and Florian Steiner make the fauna of France is now well understood. Today, 217 ant species have been found in Metropolitan France. The Mediterranean region has the richest ant fauna. Some Iberian species occur in the eastern Pyrennes (i.e. Formica gerardi, Formica subrufa, Lasius grandis, Myrmica wesmaeli, …). Mountainous regions represents a refuge for species of Northern or Central Europe (i.e. Myrmica sulcinodis, Formica herculeanus, Temnothorax tuberum, …). Some species are only recorded from Corsica (i.e. Messor minor, Messor wasmanni, Formica corsica, Aphaenogaster spinosa, …). Few introduced ant species have been recorded in France. Indoors, Monomorium pharaonis is now well established in numerous places in heated buildings. Outdoors, the “Argentine Ant” Linepithema humile is a pest in several areas of Mediterranean coast.
Janine Casevitz-Weulersse & Christophe Galkowski