Nylanderia fulva

A new ant invader along the U.S. gulf coast has gone variously by the names Rasberry Crazy Ant, Hairy Crazy Ant, Brown Crazy Ant, Nylanderia sp. nr. pubens, Nylanderia sp. nr. fulva, and probably others I’ve not heard. It’s a confusing mess that makes writing about this ant difficult and retrieving accurate information about it even more so.

Thankfully, a study out today in PLoS ONE by Dietrich Gotzek and colleagues has at least pinned down the Latin. Their verdict, after considering both morphology (mostly, the naughty male bits) and multiple genetic loci, is that the ant’s valid name is Nylanderia fulva.

Here’s a tree:

The imported ants are genetically nested within Nylanderia fulva. Adapted from Figure 3 in Gotzek et al (2012)

While the sample was geographically limited, the resulting topology does hint this new pest might come from the same part of the world- subtropical South America- as the famously troublesome fire ants and Argentine ants. Following up on this will require more extensive sampling in the Neotropics.

Disclaimers: I had a very small part in the research, in that I contributed the Paraguayan specimens to this study. Plus, lead author Dietrich Gotzek, in addition to being a stupendous molecular biologist, is also my cat-sitter. Thus, to the extent that our cats were well fed and their litter cleaned during our recent excursion to Belize, I find this to be an important and compelling study.

Gotzek D, Brady SG, Kallal RJ, LaPolla JS (2012) The Importance of Using Multiple Approaches for Identifying Emerging Invasive Species: The Case of the Rasberry Crazy Ant in the United States. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45314. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045314