2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM

Modern Ant Nest Architecture Sheds Light on Trace Fossils

TSCHINKEL, Walter R., Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, tschinkel@bio.fsu.edu

The ants arose about 100 mya, with an essentially modern ant fauna present by about 25 mya. The modernity of these fossil ants suggests that many of their behaviors, including the construction of subterranean nests, may also have been present by this time, and their nests therefore available for fossilization. The comparison of modern ant nest architecture with particular trace fossils can help determine if the fossils are likely to have been the work of ancient ants. Using orthodontal plaster, molten aluminum or molten zinc, I have made casts of the subterranean nests of over 20 different extant ant species, mostly in northern Florida. I will review and illustrate the range of variation of nest architecture within and among ant species with the intention of contributing to the interpretation of trace fossils.