Myrmicocrypta camargoi Sosa-Calvo & Schultz 2010
The world’s ant fauna continues to yield new treasures. Myrmicocrypta camargoi, described in a new paper by Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo & Ted Schultz, is the largest species in this fungus-growing genus.
source: Sosa-Calvo, J., Schultz, T.R. 2010. Three Remarkable New Fungus-Growing Ant Species of the Genus Myrmicocrypta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with a Reassessment of the Characters That Define the Genus and Its Position within the Attini. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 103(2):181-195.
artwork by Vichai Malikul
Tetraponera merita Ward 2009, Madagascar
Tetraponera merita Ward 2009 is one of many aculeate species described in the pages of a new festschrift honoring Roy Snelling. I can’t link to it, unfortunately, as the festschrift is printed the latest issue of the paper-only Journal of Hymenoptera Research.
All the same, if you can get your hands on a copy the effort is worth it, especially for a touching biography penned by Jack Longino and Roy’s son, Gordon Snelling. The festschrift also holds a couple dozen articles spanning the ecology, chemistry, evolution, and systematics across a broad sampling of aculeate hymenoptera. Rather appropriate considering the scope of Snelling’s career.
I have been sitting on photos of this pretty malagasy Tetraponera for years, unable to put a name to it. Thanks to the crystal-clear illustrations in Phil Ward’s contribution to the festschrift- a revision of the Tetraponera grandidieri species group- I was able to identify my mystery ant as T. merita, one of several new species in the revision. Apparently this species has a memorably painful sting, leading Ward to suggest that “the conspicuous orange and reddish-brown coloration of workers of T. merita…is aposematic.”
source: Ward, P.S. 2009. The Ant Genus Tetraponera in the Afrotropical Region: the T. grandidieri group (Hymenoptera:Formicidae). J. Hym. Res. 18:285-304.
Doesn’t “bigote” mean “moustache” in Spanish?
Why, yes. It does.
Pheidole bigote Longino 2009
The inimitable Jack Longino published a taxonomic paper today on the Central American Pheidole, including descriptions of some 23 new species. Among these is the marvelously moustached P. bigote. The function of the fantastic facial hair remains unknown.
Forelius damiani Guerrero & Fernández 2008
The ant genus Forelius - named for the eminent Swiss myrmecologist Auguste Forel- is known for its abundance in hot, dry climates in both North and South America. This affinity for deserts has given the genus a markedly disjunct distribution, abundant in subtropical South America and in the warmer regions of North and Central America but absent in the more humid intervening climes. Or so we’d assumed.
Last week Colombian myrmecologists Roberto Guerrero & Fernando Fernández filled the gap with a newly-discovered species of Forelius. Their collections matched several undescribed specimens from Jack Longino’s Costa Rican surveys, and is the first Forelius known from Colombia.
Pheidole rugithorax Eguchi 2008 – Vietnam
In today’s Zootaxa, Katsuyuki Eguchi has a taxonomic revision of the northern Vietnamese Pheidole, recognizing six new ant species for a genus that is already the world’s most diverse. The revision also contains several nomeclatural changes and a key to the thirty or so species occurring in the region.
As in most tropical taxonomy this research has a comedic/tragic effect of adding several more species, about which nothing is known, to a catalog already overflowing with equally mysterious species. We don’t know what they eat, how long they live, how large their colonies are, or when or how they mate. Many will meet extinction without ever receiving more than a cursory taxonomic registration. Perhaps Pheidole rugithorax has something to teach us; the odds that anyone will get around to learning it are slim indeed.
Lachnomyrmex amazonicus - Feitosa and Brandão 2008
The new world tropics continue to be a rich source of species discovery. Today’s issue of Zootaxa contains a monograph by Rodrigo Feitosa and Beto Brandão revising the ant genus Lachnomyrmex, a small yet delightfully wrinkled group of soil-dwelling ants. Of the 16 species recognized in the new paper, ten were previously unknown. For the mathematically-challenged, that’s more than half.
Lachnomyrmex amazonicus, pictured above, is one of the new species. It has been recorded from lowland humid forests in the states of Amazonas, Para, and Mato Grosso.
source: Feitosa & Brandão 2008. A taxonomic revision of the Neotropical myrmicine ant genus Lachnomyrmex Wheeler (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 1890 1-49.
Pheidole pegasus Sarnat 2008
Eli Sarnat, the reigning expert on the Ants of Fiji, has just published a lovely taxonomic revision of a group of Pheidole that occur on the islands. Pheidole are found in warmer regions worldwide, but Fiji has seen a remarkable radiation of species that share a bizarre set of spines on the mesosoma. Eli sorted through hundreds of these things to determine that the group contains seven species, five of which had not previously been described. Pheidole pegasus is largest and among the most distinct of the group. It was collected only once, from the summit of Mt. Delaikoro.
Source: Sarnat, E.M. 2008. A taxonomic revision of the Pheidole roosevelti-group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Fiji. Zootaxa 1767: 1-36.
Technomyrmex fisheri Bolton 2007
Madagascar, line drawing by Barry Bolton
Last month, British myrmecologist Barry Bolton published the first ever global synthesis of the ant genus Technomyrmex. The tome describes 37 new species, including Technomyrmex fisheri from Madagascar, named after Brian Fisher of Antweb. I’m always keen to try out new taxonomic keys, so I tested Bolton’s out on several unidentified African and Australian species in my collection. As is nearly always the case with Bolton’s meticulous work, the key worked flawlessly. I only wish I had more Technomyrmex to key.
Perhaps the most notable finding of the study, aside from the plethora of new species, is one that might upset the Pest Control folks. Bolton has discovered that the infamous White-Footed Ant, previously thought to be the single species T. albipes, is a complex of similar species, only one of which is T. albipes. In the long run, the knowledge that there are multiple pesty species in the group will better help us determine where they came from and how to control them, but of course in the short term these are the sorts of discoveries that make people hate taxonomists. Changing names makes literature retrieval more difficult, and it’s always tricky to have to remember a new name.
The Technomyrmex causing problems in Florida can no longer be referred to as Technomyrmex albipes. It is now Technomyrmex difficilis. Perhaps appropriately, we can now call this pest the “The Difficult Ant”. In any case, it looks like this in the field.
Source: Taxonomy of the dolichoderine ant genus Technomyrmex Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) based on the worker cast. Barry Bolton. 2007. 150 pp. Contributions of the American Entomological Institute Volume 35, No. 1.