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Discovered just before extinction? The first endemic ant from the Balearic Islands is endangered by climate change

Discovered just before extinction? The first endemic ant from the Balearic Islands is endangered by climate change

It is not uncommon to think that mountain summits cannot host interesting biodiversity. In some cases, species can find their place in such inhospitable habitats. This is the story of the newly discovered ant species Lasius balearicus, the first endemic ant from the Balearic Islands.

11.11.2014

 

Mallorca mountain summits: still unexplored ecological islands within an island.

It is not uncommon to think that mountain summits cannot host interesting biodiversity. In some cases, species can find their place in such inhospitable habitats. This is the story of the newly discovered ant species Lasius balearicus, the first endemic ant from the Balearic Islands. Hidden to biologists for years, this species seems to have speciated within the island of Mallorca about 1.5 Mya and remained isolated in small populations inhabiting exclusively the mountaintops of the Serra the Tramuntana. The species is not abundant, its genetic diversity is low and its habitat is small and constrained. In addition, distribution modelling predicts strong detrimental effects of short-term climate change. Consequently, the species is rated as "Endangered" according to IUCN rules.

The discovery of a non-cryptic new species in Europe is significant because it shows that a fraction of biodiversity remains still unexplored. The case of Lasius balearicus reminds us that other species may become extinct before they can be discovered.

Reference Article: Talavera, G., Espadaler, X., Vila, R. (2014), Discovered just before extinction? The first endemic ant from the Balearic Islands (Lasius balearicus sp. nov.) is endangered by climate change. Journal of Biogeography. doi: 10.1111/jbi.12438

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