Monday Night Mystery: The Case of the Turtle Ant



Tonight’s challenge tests your knowledge of Cephalotes, one of my favorite genera of ants.




Your questions are:

1. Which of the above species are you most likely to encounter in the habitat pictured in the top photograph? (6 points).
2. Most turtle ant species have distinct major and minor worker castes, but two of these do not. Name them (2 points each).

The cumulative points winner for the month of February will win their choice of:

1) A guest post here on Myrmecos
2) Any 8×10 print from my insect photography galleries
3) A myrmecos t-shirt

Good luck!

15 thoughts on “Monday Night Mystery: The Case of the Turtle Ant”

  1. 2 – Cephalotes rohweri.
    I’ll guess #6 is C. atratus and #9 is C. bruchi, and I believe neither has distinct major and minor worker castes.

  2. Q1. Cephalotes rohweri (2) – the rest are tropical
    Q2. C. atratus (6) and C. clypeatus (10) – based on Antweb specimens

  3. Kicking myself for missing this MNM, of all the MNMs! Looks to me like:

    1) persimilis (or grandinosus)
    2) rohweri
    3) spinosus
    4) varians
    5) pusillus
    6) atratus
    7) umbraculatus
    8) maculatus
    9) ???
    10) clypeatus

    Aside from atratus, I would agree with KMS and say that clypeatus does have the least conspicuously differentiated soldier caste.

  4. The most interesting thing about this night’s quiz is the distribution of northern species (USA).
    1. What are they (C. rowheri) doing in the semi arid zones of Arizona when most species are very tropical?
    2. Of the other northern species: C. varians, Florida, looks to be more or less tropical and C. texanus a puzzle. Well not texanus but no. 9 in this night’s mystery – C. angustus. Antweb shows a distribution from Brazil to Texas (ANTC247420) – perhaps a mislabelled ant since the two look very similar.

  5. Angustus! Something about the 3/4 profile is throwing off my habitus detector.

    Cephalotes in the US don’t live in big tall columnar-trunked trees, so it’s hard to imagine that there would be a ton of benefit to gliding. Has gliding been shown outside of the atratus clade?

    Shauna and Scott (et al)’s new paper has some interesting things to say about expansion into arid habitats…

      1. Renewed diversification is associated with new ecological opportunity in the Neotropical turtle ants
        S. L. Price, S. Powell, D. J. C. Kronauer, L. A. P. Tran, N. E. Pierce, R. K. Wayne
        Journal of Evolutionary Biology Volume 27, Issue 2, pages 242–258, February 2014

        Ecological opportunity, defined as access to new resources free from competitors, is thought to be a catalyst for the process of adaptive radiation. Much of what we know about ecological opportunity, and the larger process of adaptive radiation, is derived from vertebrate diversification on islands. Here, we examine lineage diversification in the turtle ants (Cephalotes), a species-rich group of ants that has diversified throughout the Neotropics. We show that crown group turtle ants originated during the Eocene (around 46 mya), coincident with global warming and the origin of many other clades. We also show a marked lineage-wide slowdown in diversification rates in the Miocene. Contrasting this overall pattern, a species group associated with the young and seasonally harsh Chacoan biogeographic region underwent a recent burst of diversification. Subsequent analyses also indicated that there is significant phylogenetic clustering within the Chacoan region and that speciation rates are highest there. Together, these findings suggest that recent ecological opportunity, from successful colonization of novel habitat, may have facilitated renewed turtle ant diversification. Our findings highlight a central role of ecological opportunity within a successful continental radiation.

        NB, pairs well with a bottle of Cuscena and Sanders et al Mol Ecol 2014 ‘Stability and phylogenetic correlation in gut microbiota: lessons from ants and apes’: 😉

Leave a Reply