The great Roy Snelling has posthumously published a revision of California’s Temnothorax, with 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