The Pioneering Spirit of Invasive Ants

As my final two chapters in AAA make clear, a key to the success of invasive ant species is their skill at "jump dispersal" -- that is, at leapfrogging across the landscape by climbing onto the debris that floats down a river, or (after humans came along) onto a boat, train, or car. And so the red imported fire ant (which occupies the American south) and the Argentine ant (which has taken over much of California) both originally came from an area of northern Argentina where frequent flooding of their homes honed their capacity to move fast when the opportunity presents itself, and thereby board human vehicles.

What would it be like if the ants built their own boats, trains, or cars rather than hitching rides with us? With this question in mind, artist Marlin Peterson captures the pioneering spirit of the Argentine ant in one of his paintings for a children's book in progress that can be found on

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