Assessment of legacy mine metal contamination using ants as indicators of contamination

Armin Kavehei*, Damian B. Gore, Scott P. Wilson, Maryamsadat Hosseini, Grant C. Hose

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Most legacy mines contributed to contamination of the environment before and after cessation of mining. Contamination from waste rock, slag and tailings can introduce large concentrations of metals and metalloids to the surface soil and downstream sediments. Since ants are able to accumulate metals in their bodies, we investigated the possibility of using the elemental compositions of ants as indicators of metals at legacy mines developed on ores rich in copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), arsenic (As), silver (Ag) and lead (Pb). Our results showed the concentrations of manganese (Mn) and Cu in ants were not significantly different between mine and reference samples and only Zn was significantly different between contaminated and reference areas. Crematogaster spp. and Notoncus spp. from reference areas accumulated larger concentrations of metals in their bodies compared to ants from the mine. Ants accumulated metals in different parts of their bodies. The abdomen was the main site for accumulation of Mn, iron (Fe) and Zn. Mandibles were only associated with accumulation of Zn. Copper and Pb showed no area of preferential accumulation and traces were detected in the whole body of the ants. Ants from five genera had similar regions for metal accumulation. The exoskeleton did not contribute to accumulation of metals; instead all metals were stored in internal organs. Not all genera were suitable for use as indicators; only Iridomyrmex spp. and Ochetellus spp. accumulated larger amount of metals in mine samples compared to reference samples.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number116537
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalEnvironmental Pollution
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


    • Terrestrial invertebrate
    • Bioindicator
    • Ant genera
    • Soil pollution


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