Discovery: Tropical fire ants traveled the world on 16th century ships

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Thanks to a bit of genetic sleuthing, researchers now know the invasion history of the tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata), the first ant species known to travel the globe by sea.

Their study, reported in the journal Molecular Ecology, reveals that 16th century Spanish galleons shuttled tropical fire ants from Acapulco, Mexico, across the Pacific to the Philippines, and from there to other parts of the world. Today, the ant species is found in virtually all tropical regions, including in Africa, the Americas, Australia, India and Southeast Asia.

“A lot of these ships, particularly if they were going somewhere to pick up commerce, would fill their ballast with soil and then they would dump the soil out in a new port and replace it with cargo,” Read more.

Viking spar

A group of French scientists have discovered physical evidence for the use of a “sun compass” from the wreck of a 16th century ship off the island of Alderney, in the English Channel. In a paper published this month, they suggest that a crystal of calcite, found near other navigational instruments at the wreck site, was used to locate the position of the sun, and hence south, by the ancient mariners on board. The finding backs up previous hypotheses that this was the method widely used by Viking seamen centuries earlier.

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In the middle of the European Renaissance, these fantastic skeleton gods were constructed in the bowels of Europe’s Catholic churches. Made of real human bones, jewels and gold, these creations were constructed to replace older skeleton gods destroyed by Protestant uprisings. Late in the 16th Century, the Vatican began shipping these skeletons to its churches that survived the Reformation, so that believers would have “saints” to pray to once again—while named after popular Catholic saints, the origins of these skeletons are even more dubious than the better known relics of Europe.