For ants to the Kuriles: a member of the Russian Geographical Society conducted unique research on the islands

Ant colonies on Sakhalin and three islands of the Greater and Lesser Kuril ridges – Kunashir, Shikotan and Iturup – became the subject of a study conducted by Artyom Ryabinin, a researcher at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a member of the Novosibirsk Branch of the Russian Geographical Society. The scientist collected a wealth of material that allows a comparative analysis of the myrmecofauna (a multi-species community of ants) of the islands and the mainland of Russia.

The expedition to the Kuriles left many vivid impressions. The scientist spoke in a conversation with members of the Russian Geographical Society about encounters with bears, thickets of the Kuril bamboo plant, climbing the Mendeleev and Golovnin volcanoes on Kunashir, picturesque bays and Cape World’s End on Shikotan, changeable weather and earthquakes on Iturup. However, all this did not prevent the enthusiastic researcher from walking tens of kilometers and collecting unique material for his work. Ryabinin paid special attention to the collection of ants, since he specializes in the study of this group of insects.

– Anthills on the islands are mainly represented by low outdoor buildings, which is probably due to fairly strong winds in this region. It was possible to collect representatives of the genera Formica, Myrmica, Lasius, Camponotus and others on the islands. Ants inhabit various biotopes and live, among other things, in residential buildings. The flora of the region is very rich. Here, in a small area, Sakhalin fir and magnolia bottom-white, yew spiky and wild grapes, Glenn spruce and stone birch, overgrown with lianas, coexist. Lots of different berries. In August and September, everything bloomed in a lush green carpet. It was unexpected to see the flowering and fruiting of wild rose in the same phenological series, Artem noted.

The scientist also gave practical advice to travelers who dream of going to Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. Artyom stressed that it is necessary to order a pass in advance, take the equipment seriously, and warned about possible dangers. He noted that going on solo trips on the islands, as a rule, is not accepted and is quite risky. Even loud noises and flares do not give a complete guarantee of safety in the territory where bears live. True, there are no predators larger than foxes on Shikotan, and the presence of the most beautiful bays makes visiting this island simply unforgettable.

Going to the Kuriles, you need to be prepared for earthquakes. The islands are located in a seismic zone, so this natural phenomenon is not uncommon here. During Ryabinin’s expedition, there were several earthquakes of small magnitude (about 4.0).

The scientist also recalled the environmental problems in the region. In particular, about the large amount of garbage on the islands, as well as poaching nets on the path of salmon and pink salmon during spawning.

The best time to travel to Sakhalin and the Kuriles is considered to be September and October. Usually, fogs and rains are already over by this moment, tourists are pleased with the sun and warm weather. In the future, Artyom plans to return to Sakhalin and the Kuriles more than once for scientific and tourist purposes.

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