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The Philippines, composed of more than 7,100 islands, is the second largest archipelago in the world. In contrast to the east-west orientation of the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippine archipelago is arrayed in a north-south pattern from 4° 40' and 21° 10' North latitude and 116° 40' and 126° 34' East longitude. The three major island groups are commonly referred to as Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Most of the islands originally consisted of lush tropical rainforest due to the almost year-round rainfall. The relatively arid Ilocos region, however, is in the rain shadow of the central Cordillera mountain range of northern Luzon Island. Only about 3% of the Philippines’ old-growth forests remain.
The Palawan Island group, in the western Philippines, has unique flora and fauna that are more closely related to continental Asia. The rest of the islands are inhabited by flora and fauna that are Melanesian in origin.
There are 394 ant species known from the Philippines. Many areas remain to be sampled, and the total number of species is estimated to be closer to 1,000. The best-collected locality is the Cuernos de Negros Mountain in Negros Island, where J.W. Chapman collected for more than 20 years in the early- to mid-1900s. Chapman’s collections can be found at the Museum of Comparative Zoology of Harvard University. Other historical collections from a few other islands have been deposited in various museums in Europe and the United States.
In 2003, Gary Alpert and Dave General initiated a transect survey of Mt. Isarog in Luzon Island. The 215 species they have found so far include 8 genera new to the Philippines and about 40 species that have not yet been described. The survey is ongoing, with the collaboration of other institutions near the dormant volcano.
Current efforts to survey the Philippines include recruiting academic institutions and museums to conduct additional surveys of islands where they have collecting permits.
Gary Alpert and David M. General