Ten New Temnothorax

Temnothorax caguatan Snelling, Borowiec, and Prebus 2014 from Jasper Ridge Biological Reserve, California, USA.


The great Roy Snelling has posthumously published a revision of California’s Temnothoraxwith the humous assistance of Matt Prebus and Marek Borowiec. The paper provides an illustrated key to species, range maps, and descriptions of ten new taxa. Among the newbies is Temnothorax caguatan, a common ant we’ve been awkwardly calling “the species sort of like T. rugatulus that nests in trees”. At last! A real name. The etymology of this entomology is given as:

When Hernán Cortéz was conquering central Mexico, the Nahua speaking people related to him tales of a fabulous land, ruled by women, far to the northwest that was rich in gold and gems. They named this land “Caguatán”, the Land of Women. This tale presumably inspired Cortéz and other avaricious conquistadors to search for this marvelous land, ultimately leading the Spaniards to the Californias.

If you’ve ever wondered why no single easy reference book exists for identifying North America’s ants, this is the reason. The state of taxonomy remains more rudimentary than you’d think, with many species still nameless or poorly understood. A few dozen more studies like Roy’s and someone will finally be able to give our ants a decent guide.

source: Snelling R, Borowiec M, Prebus M (2014) Studies on California ants: a review of the genus Temnothorax (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). ZooKeys 372: 27-89. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.372.6039

5 thoughts on “Ten New Temnothorax”

  1. Gordon C. snelling

    I have been fooled and annoyed by “the species sort of like T. rugatulus that nests in trees” more times than I care to count.

  2. Alex, are you suggesting that North American ant taxonomy has suffered because “a fabulous land, ruled by women, far to the northwest that was rich in gold and gems” was never found ? Or was it because fabled “etymology of this entomology” repeatedly made all taxonomists pause in wonder and procrastinate just way too long with dreams of golden pulchritude ?
    At any rate, it always seems a good idea to seek that marvelous land of the mind. Taxonomy is never finished.

    1. I totally would have published my global revision of Camponotus by now if it weren’t for the fabulous golden land of women, if that’s what you’re getting at, Bob.

  3. James C. Trager

    It’s safe to say I’ve never really done justice to the collecting of California ants, and I think I could count on my two hands (maybe one!) the number of times I’ve encountered members of this genus in California. If the whole state doesn’t dry up and blow away in the next year or so, I’ll have to get back out there and try to find some of these.

    Looking forward to that Camponotus revision, Alex . . . Of course, you’ll post it here.

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