Utah’s ant man found a new species in his backyard

June 5, 2024
Above: John "Jack" Longino, in the tropics

University of Utah professor Jack Longino’s research mainly takes him to Central America, but on the weekend he collects and examines the diverse ant species around him.

Jack Longino likes to spend his weekends close to the ground. He often wears a vest that holds fifteen tiny vials filled with alcohol and a backpack with about 100 more.

“People look at me and they think I’ve got a bullet belt,” he said.

Longino uses the vials to carefully collect and preserve ants. “I end up with thousands of tiny little bottles of alcohol with dead ants in them,” he said.

He has traveled and documented ants extensively in Central America, but Longino is “interested in ant diversity anywhere I am.”

Luckily, ants are just about everywhere and each zone — from the marshes of the Great Salt Lake to high elevation Alta to the West Desert — has its own set of species.

In 2018 Longino was hanging out in the backyard of his Salt Lake City home when he noticed an unusual group of ants normally found in tropical habitats. Very few of that particular species were recorded in the Western U.S. At first he assumed they had come from Southern Arizona, perhaps hitched a ride on potting soil.

Read the full article by reporter Sofia Jeremias in the Salt Lake Tribune. (Pay wall)