Dracula Ants Divided

Stigmatomma oregonensis workers do to a centipede what Yoshimura & Fisher did to Amblyopone: subdue it before chopping it into pieces. Ouch!

This post is a heads-up to those of you who pay attention to taxonomy: the dracula ant genus Amblyopone isn’t what it used to be.

A paper out today in PLoS ONE by Masashi Yoshimura and Brian Fisher has taken the genus and cleaved it in three. Species are now divided between a much smaller Amblyopone and two resurrected older genera, Stigmatomma and Xymmer. Yoshimura and Fisher’s action should not surprise anyone who follows ant evolution research, as Amblyopone has long been suspected as being an arbitrary assemblage of unrelated forms. Consider this figure from the 2006 Ant Tree of Life paper:

Molecular data suggest paraphyly of Amblyopone. Adapted from Figure 1 in Brady et al (2006).

In keeping with recent trends in myrmecology, Yoshimura & Fisher’s work is based on the morphology of male ants. The new scheme reflects a more sophisticated understanding of male form in this group, and it is certainly pleasing to have their findings correspond with earlier suggestions from genetic data.

For those of us in North America, the practical consequence of this paper is that our common dracula ant Amblyopone pallipes reverts to the older name Stigmatomma pallipes. Our more senior myrmecologists will likely adapt to the change like a comfortable pair of old shoes. I, on the other hand, will be spending the rest of the afternoon writing out “Stigmatomma pallipes” until it sinks in.

Stigmatomma pallipes

Yoshimura M, Fisher BL (2012) A Revision of Male Ants of the Malagasy Amblyoponinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) with Resurrections of the Genera Stigmatomma and Xymmer. PLoS ONE 7(3): e33325. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033325

Brady SG, Schultz TR, Fisher BL, Ward PS  (2006) Evaluating alternative hypotheses for the early evolution and diversification of ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 103:18172–18177.

9 thoughts on “Dracula Ants Divided”

  1. It’s great to see male ants get the attention they deserve. Other aculeate families that have apterous females sometimes have similar limitations when relying on one sex. Several large genera in Mutillidae that should probably be split up have females that are fairly consistent morphologically (such as Ephuta and Trogaspidia). The males, however, have already been split into five-plus genera. Unfortunately, most of these male-based genera have no female associated with them.

    Hopefully someone will monograph Amblyoponinae and pull together the piecemeal species descriptions (especially for Stigmatomma…feels weird typing that!).

  2. Whenever I see Stigmatomma now I’m going to think that I’m reading something from the era when everything was a ponerine. On the other hand, we can add Xymmer to the short list of genera that start with X (the only other ones I can think of Xenomyrmex, Xenopus, and Xysticus).

    Yeah, I’m a little bit saddened that most of the new names can’t roll off my tongue as easily anymore. I also can’t believe I’ve gotten to the point that I’m actually a little sentimental about ant taxonomy. 😛

      1. Time to get out your handy-dandy gene recombinant tools and make a new genus so you can name it to your liking.

        Waiting around for natural selection is so 20th century……

    1. Sorry, new at myrmicology. Isn’t stigmatomma ponerine? I would of thought that they would of been in the sub-family ponerinae due to their hunting patterns.

  3. I guess I’m one of those “more senior myrmecologists”, but even old shoes, if they haven’t been worn in while, require some recent wearing to be fully comfortable. :~)

    Anyway, in concomittant curmudgeonly fashion, this grammatical and spelling comment on the new statuses and combinations in Stigmatomma, celata should be celatum, minuta > minutum, eminia > eminium, gingivalis > gingivale, rubiginoum > rubiginosum. Also “gnoma”, a noun in apposition, should have the invariant form gnomus, no matter what genus name it follows.

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