The nests of the mangrove ant Polyrhachis sokolova are found in soil in intertidal mangrove communities, and are thus inundated at high tides for several hours. Some of the nest galleries are flooded, but others retain air pockets, to which the ants retreat. During and following inundation, we measured carbon dioxide concentrations in air samples collected from different levels in the nests and from artificial 'control' holes in the mud. To account for the relative contribution of different sources of carbon dioxide, we also measured the carbon dioxide production by individual ants (including larvae and pupae) and small samples of mud collected near the ant nests. Nest carbon dioxide concentrations were high (2.5-11%) during and immediately following inundation, but the concentrations in the upper regions of the nest fell as soil water levels receded. However, at depths > 10 cm below the level soil surface, the carbon dioxide concentrations remained relatively high and stable (at approximately 2%) over the 11 days between one high tide and the next. The contribution of the mud (and associated microorganisms) to the carbon dioxide concentration in the nests was substantial, and the contribution of the respiration of the ants was approximately 10-15% of the total. The carbon dioxide concentrations in the nests of this species during high tides are among the highest recorded for insect nests, suggesting that these ants may have unusual physiological attributes to match the behavioural and ecological challenges associated with living in the intertidal zone.
Nielsen, M. G., Christian, K., & Birkmose, D. (2003). Carbon dioxide concentrations in the nests of the mud-dwelling mangrove ant Polyrhachis sokolova Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Austral Entomology, 42(4), 357-362. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-6055.2003.00372.x