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Greece is a southeastern European country, bordering in the north with Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, as well as with Turkey in the northeast. To the east of the mainland lies the Aegean sea, the Ionian Sea to the west and the Mediterranean to the south. Within these land masses feature approximately 1400 islands (227 of which are inhabited). 80% of Greece consists of mountainous regions with the highest point being on Olympus mountain at 2917m. The mainland is almost divided in two by the Corinth gulf, leaving the Peloponnese connected only through a narrow isthmus. In conjunction with the processes relating to glacial periods in that area, Greece is the field of significant biogeographical procedures leading to high degrees of speciation and endemism. In addition, the geographic position between the European/Balkan Peninsula in the north, the Asian plate in the east and the Northern parts of Africa in the south, add to the complexity of the speciation processes taking place in this area.
The ecoregions characterizing Greece include Balkan mixed forests in the west, Rodope montane mixed forests in the north, Illyrian deciduous forests and Pindus Mountains mixed forests in the mainland, Crete Mediterranean forests in Crete, as well as xeric shrublands dominating the majority of the Aegean islands.
The Greek ant fauna was somewhat neglected as the main efforts of European scientists for cataloguing ant species focused mainly in the Neotropic, Afrotropic and Indomalayan ecozones. The first efforts of describing ants in Greece were sporadic and localized (Brullé, 1833; von Oertzen, 1887; Emery, 1894; Doflein ,1920; Finzi, 1930) and it wasn’t until the mid 1980s’ that the author first tried to fully document a full catalogue of ant species and their distribution in Greece (Legakis 1983a, 1983b, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1990). Recently, the author has prepared an annotated list of the valid species and their distribution from Greece (Legakis, in press) with the number of ant species that have been described from Greece rising to 277 species (and subspecies). From these, common species such as Aphaenogaster ionia, Camponotus aethiops, C. baldaccii, C. oertzeni, Cataglyphis nodus, Crematogaster schmidti, C. sordidula, F. exsecta, F. picea, Lasius niger, Messor meridionalis, M. caducus, M. structor, Pheidole pallidula, Plagiolepis pygmaea, Tapinoma simrothi and Tetramorium splendens, are wide-spread through the mainland and most of the islands. Nevertheless, numerous rare species are known from a few sites. In addition, taxonomic problems with taxa such as Leptothorax, Messor, Temnothorax and Tetramorium need to be taken into account when studying ants in Greece.The Ants of Greece include additions from Borowiec and Salata, 2012.
Anastasios Legakis & Chris Georgiadis