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James Trager

The ant fauna of Missouri contains elements from the faunas of the eastern deciduous forest, the southeastern mixed forests and pinelands, and the Great Plains grasslands. As recently as the 1850s, tallgrass prairie dominated the level or gently rolling ground in the north and west of the state. The prairies were dotted with patches of woodland on steeper slopes and rocky outcrops, and along major river courses, they were streaked with forested tracts festooned with lianas. The southeast corner of Missouri, the "Boot Heel", consisted of an extensive, nearly flat stretch of sandy soil over clay, with a mosaic of vegetation ranging from sand prairies and post oak savannas to cypress and tupelo swamps. These vegetation types differed by only a few feet in elevation. Between the prairies and the Boot Heel lie the Ozarks, a 280 million-year-old, never-glaciated mountain range containing high biological endemism. The Ozark topography was cloaked in a rich mosaic of plant life including xeric glades (a type of grassland), mesic prairies, spring-fed fens, pine and pine-oak savannas, and diverse forest types -- most dominated by one to several of Missouri’s 22 oak species.

Much of this vegetation has been altered, with near total destruction of the native vegetation of the prairie and Boot Heel regions, and moderate to severe degradation of the Ozark timberlands. The Ozarkian grasslands a have all succeeded to or been shrunken by encroaching trees. What remains of each of the pre-1850s vegetation types still has its own assemblage of ant species. Missouri ants listed here comprise 147 species, including a few exotics, mostly confined to heated greenhouses, etc. Progressively smaller subsets of the native fauna occur on a spectrum of habitat quality from high-quality natural remnants to de novo anthropogenic habitats. Several ant species are at or near the southern or eastern edge of their geographical distribution in Missouri, a smaller number are at or near the northern or western edge, but apparently none are endemic.

James Trager
Missouri Ant Curator