The ants of the southern Sonoran desert: Community structure and the role of trees

Brandon T. Bestelmeyer, Robert L. Schooley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In contrast to other North American deserts, the southern Sonoran desert is dominated by trees that provide shaded microhabitats necessary for the establishment and survival of several plant species. Near the southern limit of the Sonoran desert in Sonora, Mexico, we evaluated the role that tree microhabitats may play in structuring ant communities. We recorded 39 species and 21 genera of ants from a 9.7-ha area. Total species richness was estimated to be between 47 and 49 species, a much greater species richness than that reported for other North American arid-zone habitats. Although species richness did not differ between open ground and tree-shaded microhabitats, species composition did. Opportunistic species, Camponotus species, Pheidole sciophila and P. titanis were more common near trees, whereas Pheidole sp. A and granivorous species were more active in open areas. The imperilment of trees in the Sonoran desert due to commercial cutting and the spread of buffelgrass Pennisetum ciliare may alter the existing composition of ant communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-657
Number of pages15
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Ants
  • Desert trees
  • Heterogeneity
  • Mexico
  • Sonoran desert

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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