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QU Graduate Conducts Study on The Biodiversity of Ants | Qatar University

QU Graduate Conducts Study on The Biodiversity of Ants

The biodiversity on Ants

The study proves the existence of 44 species of ants, to be added for the first time to the biodiversity base in Qatar

Dr. Salma Al-Hajri, a PhD graduate in Biological and Environmental Sciences at Qatar University (QU), conducts study on ‘The Biodiversity of Ants’ proving the existence of 44 species of ants; to be added for the first time to the biodiversity base in Qatar.

In general, the study of the biological diversity of ants aids in reaching a broader understanding of the crucial role that these small organisms play. The goal was to understand the species of ants and their biological diversity and using this knowledge to contribute to understanding the impact of these organisms on the wildlife in the country.

In the classification of ants in particular and insects in general, this is the first study in the State of Qatar specialized in this field, where Dr. Salma practiced taxonomy of ants under the supervision of the most important ant scientists around the world, including a member of the Doctoral Research Committee Dr. Donat Agosti. This is in addition to the following professors: Brian Fisher, Phil Ward, Walter Tschinkel, Mike Kaspari, Corrie Moreau, Adrian Smith, James Trager, Jack Longino and others, as part of a training course on ants organized annually by the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, USA.

Dr. Salma Al-Hajri, under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Philip Watson, studied seasonal changes in the biodiversity and abundance of invertebrates found in various environments throughout the nation. In a statement Dr. Salma said, “While insects, including ants, made up the majority of the study's findings, unfortunately, there is very little information about ants in the nation. For this reason, I decided in my PhD project to investigate the biological diversity of ants in Qatar because there is very little basic knowledge about ants and insects in general here, despite the fact that at least 300 species of ants have been recorded from the Arabian Peninsula.”

Dr. Salma adds, “In the present study, 44 species are newly recorded for ant fauna of the State of Qatar increasing the total number of ant species to 50 species. The differences between native and invasive alien species were made in this study for the first time in Qatar. This very important information goes beyond the comprehension of biological invasion by exotic ant species in the country and contributes to the preservation of the environments in Qatar and the Arabian Peninsula. It describes the local species in the Qatari environment and seasonal changes in the diversity of ants in different habitats.”

DNA of some ant species were obtained and utilized to identify these species for the first time in Qatar, according to Dr. Salma, who also mentioned that molecular biology techniques were employed for the first time to identify ant species there. Additionally, the ant groups gathered for this study serve as the first building block for the creation of a museum of Qatari environmental insects. This helps to spread basic knowledge about ants and other insects in general, especially given that the ant groups were set up professionally and made use of all the knowledge and abilities gained through employment at various international research institutions.

In addition, Dr. Salma emphasized that as insects make up the majority of animal life on Earth and are crucial to the ecosystem both biologically and environmentally, entomology is one of the key sciences that has an impact on the environment in Qatar. Ants are useful bioindicators, in various aspects according to several studies, for instance, in landscape quality, agro-ecosystems, land management, monitoring biodiversity, monitoring habitat transformation, disturbance impacts, and others.

In addition, ants play an important role in different ecological interactions with different plants and animals. For instance, ants play an important role in seed dispersal, where both ants and plants have mutual benefits, in which plants provide shelter and food for ants, while ants provide protection by repelling arthropods and limiting the growth of other plants.

Researcher Dr. Salma Al-Hajri also referred to the great role and support of QU saying, “Qatar University has provided me with the opportunity to pursue the dream of graduate studies. I was awarded with a Graduate Sponsorship Research Award from QNRF, during my time at QU and was the recipient of the QU Dissertation Award in 2021.”

She adds, “QU also includes many inspiring professors who have had a great impact on me, including: Professor Dr. Phillip Watson supervisor of my master thesis and Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Bayoumi, I also found continuous support, especially from the doctoral research supervisor, Prof. Talaat Ahmed, the Associate Professor at the Environmental Sciences Center, faculty, especially from Dr. Eiman Mustafawi, Vice President for Student Affairs. I also cannot forget the great role and support provided by the Office of Graduate Studies, especially Dr. Mary Newsome, Assistant Dean of Graduate Learning Support, and the distinguished TAD team who provided me with assistance and support throughout the duration of my studies.”

It is worth noting that the types of ants collected from the State of Qatar were classified by comparing them to ant samples preserved in the following international research institutions in Switzerland: Natural History Museum of Geneva (MHNG), Natural History Museum Basel (NHMB) and the Natural History Museum of Bern. Most of the ant specimens were photographed at the Natural History Museum of Bern in Switzerland, while additional specimens were photographed at the Environmental Science Center in QU.