Coal mining brings coal to the surface along with many of the toxic metals and minerals that are buried in the earth. Heavy metals can be toxic to insects as well as people. Two species of ants, Cataglyphis longipedem and Camponotus compressus inhabit coal mines but differ in tolerance to heavy metals. Cataglyphis longipedem thrives in soils with zinc and manganese contamination. Body concentrations increase in the presence of higher soil levels. Cataglyphis longipedem may use these metals to strengthen cuticular structures needed to tunnel is hard, dry compacted soils. Camponotus compressus fares poorly in the presence of these minerals and are pollution sensitive. The differential response to these toxins makes these ant species potentially important as bioindicator species.
Shbbir R. Khan & Satish K. Singh & Neelkamal Rastogi. Heavy metal accumulation and ecosystem engineering by two common mine site-nesting ant species: implications for pollution-level assessment
and bioremediation of coal mine soil. Environ Monit Assess (2017) 189:195