PARTICLES IN HARVESTER ANT MOUNDS AS AN AID TO MAPPING BEDROCK GEOLOGY IN ARID REGIONS
Particle-size summary statistics for the mounds were estimated with the method of moments (through sieve analysis). Grain mounts of particles were inspected with a binocular microscope and estimates made of particle shape and roundness. In order to further evaluate mineralogy of the samples, petrographic thin sections were prepared from grain mounts and from hand samples of the bedrock. Direct measurement of particle sizes under the microscope and tabulation of corresponding particle weights are in progress.
Results to date suggest that particle lithologies occurring in harvester ant mounds are an excellent guide to the lithology (and geologic formation) of the underlying bedrock. The most surprising outcome is that the particle size and sorting in the ant mounds is remarkably uniform, regardless of the bedrock type or geographic location. Frequency distributions for each of the mounds are slightly positively skewed; most of the mounds have a grain size mode of 1.49 phi units (about 2.8 mm). The particles in the mounds are very-well-to-well sorted (ranging from about 0.33 to 0.36 phi units). Harvester ant mounds may very well contain the best-sorted granule-size particles in nature.