Paratrechina, major changes
January 9, 2010, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Database additions

I love ants, all of them. Even at a point, this always surprises my family that I find them very pretty. However, to all rules, there is an exception: the genus Paratrechina. For the species I encounter here in North Carolina, I can’t say that I could imagine myself study them for years (but probably if I tried, I would changed my mind). They are funny looking with their erected setae all along the body, but to me they all look the same, and when my colleagues ask me to check ant identification, I always expect that it is not a Paratrechina. They are my ID nightmare.

Nylanderia flavipes from Okayama, Japan

Well, thanks to an article published by LaPolla and collaborators in Systematic Entomology, it turns out that my nightmare might have tripled now (many thanks 😉 . The former Paratrechina genus is now split into Paratrechina sensu sricto, Nylanderia and Paraparatrechina. In this article, the authors explored the Prenolepis genus group (Euprenolepis, Nylanderia, Paraparatrechina, Paratrechina, Prenolepis and Pseudolasius) and found several interesting results. As just said, Paratrechina is now divided into 3 distinct genera. The Paratrechina genus is now represented only by the invasive Paratrechina longicornis. The native Paratrechina from North America for instance, now become Nylanderia (for example Nylanderia concinna, faisonensis, parvula, or vividula). Note that Nylanderia has a global distribution (but absent for high latitudes) So the revision of James Trager of Paratrechina in 1984, turn out to be now a revision of Nylanderia (with the exception of the part on Paratrechina longicornis ). The genus Paraparatrechina is mostly limited to the tropical regions of the old world (with the exceptions of south east Australia). See the maps in the article for the distribution of the different genera.

Here is the abstract of the article:

We investigated the phylogeny and taxonomy of the Prenolepis genusgroup, a clade of ants we define within the subfamily Formicinae comprising the genera Euprenolepis, Nylanderia, gen. rev., Paraparatrechina, gen. rev. & stat. nov., Paratrechina, Prenolepis and Pseudolasius. We inferred a phylogeny of the Prenolepis genus-group using DNA sequence data from five genes (CAD, EF1αF1, EF1αF2, wingless and COI) sampled from 50 taxa. Based on the results of this phylogeny the taxonomy of the Prenolepis genus-group was re-examined. Paratrechina (broad sense) species segregated into three distinct, robust clades. Paratrechina longicornis represents a distinct lineage, a result consistent with morphological evidence; because this is the type species for the genus, Paratrechina is redefined as a monotypic genus. Two formerly synonymized subgenera, Nylanderia and Paraparatrechina, are raised to generic status in order to provide names for the other two clades. The majority of taxa formerly placed in Paratrechina, 133 species and subspecies, are transferred to Nylanderia, and 28 species and subspecies are transferred to Paraparatrechina. In addition, two species are transferred from Pseudolasius to Paraparatrechina and one species of Pseudolasius is transferred to Nylanderia. A morphological diagnosis for the worker caste of all six genera is provided, with a discussion of the morphological characters used to define each genus. Two genera, Prenolepis and Pseudolasius, were not recovered as monophyletic by the molecular data, and the implications of this result are discussed. A worker-based key to the genera of the Prenolepis genus-group is provided.

Finally, note that with the descriptions of those two new genera, my list of extant genera now reach the symbolic number of 300! That’s a good way to start 2010.

Alright, I have some new maps to update now!

PS: If you can give me 5 good reasons to love Paratrechina/Nylanderia/Paraparatrechina, I promise to try to write a poem to celebrate them (in French or in English).


LaPolla J.S., S.G. Brady, and S.O. Shattuck. 2010. Phylogeny and taxonomy of the Prenolepis genus-group of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Systematic Entomology 35: 118-131.

Trager J.C. A revision of the genus Paratrechina of the continental United States. Sociobiology 9: 51-162.

1 Comment so far
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Five reasons to love them:
1 — They are shiny, like jewels in the leaf litter!
2 — Nylanderia phantasma appears to be a ghost, and is possibly the palest knnown ant species.
3 — Nylanderia burgesi is bicolored, like a wood ant.
4 — Nylanderia burgesi is the most abundant ant at the Macch Picchu historical site.
5 — Paratrechina longicornis is likely the most widely ditributed ant species in the world.
And a bonus reason: This group fed my family for the four years of my Ph. D, research. (Well really, fire ants paid for it, but I worked on these guys – ha!)

Here’s a haiku:
Glistens, furtive among leaves
On the forest floor.

Comment by James C. Trager

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