Ants in Colorado are on the move due to climate change

by Yvaine Ye, University of Colorado Boulder
April 10, 2024

On a hot summer day in 2022, Anna Paraskevopoulos found herself trekking through forests and shrubs in Gregory Canyon near Boulder, flipping over rocks and logs to look for any signs of ants.

About six decades before that, a team of entomologists had walked on the same trails to record the local ant species, but what Paraskevopoulos saw was very different. Over the past 60 years, climate change has forced certain ant species, unable to tolerate higher temperatures, out of their original habitats in Gregory Canyon.

The resulting biodiversity change could potentially alter local ecosystems, according to Paraskevopoulos, a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU Boulder. Her research findings appear April 9 in the journal Ecology.

Like all insects, ants are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature, metabolism and other bodily functions depend on the environment’s temperature. As a result, ants are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, making them a good marker to study the impact climate change has on ecosystems.

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