Brazil has the largest diversity of ant genera, with 31% recognized worldwide, and has the second largest diversity of ant species on the planet. With the exception of polar circles, ants are present in all terrestrial environments, usually in considerable numbers. It is difficult to estimate the precise number of species, but it is believed that there are at least 1,000 ant species already cataloged by science in the Amazon.
To gather animal information, the National Amazon Research Institute (Inpa), through the Biodiversity Research Program (PPBio) and the National Institute of Technological Science (INCT) – Center for Integrated Amazon Biodiversity Studies (Cenbam) , launched the “Guide for the Ant Genera of Brazil”.
The publication is well illustrated and brings information with a simple language about the morphology, the taxonomic history of the group, and explains how to collect and identify the more than 100 genera that occur in Brazil. According to one of the guide’s authors, biologist Fabrício Baccaro, a professor at the Federal University of Amazonas (Ufam) and a member of PPBio, ants are everywhere and play an important role in the balance of the ecosystem because they perform several essential functions for their functioning. ecosystems such as herbivorous insect control, soil transformation and seed dispersal.
Baccaro explains that besides being abundant, ants are very diverse. According to him, at the time this book was finalized, approximately 13,000 ant species were known, distributed in 16 subfamilies and 330 genera. The Neotropical region, which extends from Tierra del Fuego to the Mexican desert, has 13 subfamilies, 142 genera and approximately 3,000 described species. “Brazil has a prominent position and houses more than half of the species described for the Neotropical region with approximately 1,458 distributed in 11 genera,” he says.
The idea of making the guide came in 2009 during the Symposium of Mirmecology that took place in Ouro Preto (MG). They are also authors of the publication: Rodrigo Feitosa (Federal University of Paraná), Fernando Fernández (National University of Colombia), Itanna Fernandes (PhD student at Inpa / Smithsonian Institution), Thiago Izzo (Federal University of Mato Grosso), Jorge de Souza (fellow postdoctoral fellow at Fapeam’s Doctoral Support Program in Amazonas) and Ricardo Solar (University of Viçosa).
The guide is available for now in online format and can be downloaded by clicking here. The print version is scheduled for release in 2016. This is another guide produced by PPBio and Cenbam. Among them is the Manaus Region Snake Guide. See the list of tabs.
Ants in the Amazon
In the Amazon, the genera of ants best known to the population are: Paraponera (tucandeira, which is used in the male initiation ritual of the Sateré-Mawé ethnicity), Solenopsis (fire ants), Azteca (tapiba), Nylanderia (mad ant), Pachycondyla (ant), Camponotus (carpenter ant), Eciton (correcting ant) and Atta (leafcutter ant).
In the Amazon, the tucandeira ant (Paraponera clavata), which measures 2.5 cm in length, is used in the male initiation ritual of the Sateré-Mawé tribe. Boys ages 8 to 9 wear ant-filled gloves and should last for more than 10 minutes. The ritual continues until the age of 14 when the young man learns to endure pain without showing pain. For the Sateré-Mawé, the stinging ant sting acts as a kind of vaccine.
The içá ant, popularly known as tanajura, is the female of saúva, which in tupi-guarani means “eating ant”. In many parts of the country it is considered a delicacy. The edible part is the ant’s abdomen, ie the “tanajura ass”. It is toasted with manioc flour or pure. Some of the best chefs in the country have also added tanajura to the menu.