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 ūüėČ . 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, EF1őĪF1, EF1őĪF2, 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).

References:

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.



2009 or a great year for new ant genera
January 9, 2010, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is the first post for this new Year 2010, so let’s go back in the past, you know those old time of 2009, or even 2008. But first of all, I wish you an excellent new year, with I hope tons of discoveries and exciting ant projects .

Recapitulate what happens in 2009 for ant genera discoveries.

As we say for wine, 2008 was a “grand cru”, well 2009 was a “cru exceptionnel”!

For those of you who are also wine lovers, you might have heard that the wine production last year in France is supposed to be exceptional (un cru exeptionnel in French)!

Well, 2009 was not only a great year for French wine bottles but also for ant new genera descriptions!

The graphic below represents the number of new genera described each year from 2000 to 2009 (2009 should have 9 genera and not 8).

From 2000 to 2007, about zero to two new genera maximum per year have been described. And then, we had a first burst in 2008 with 4 new genera (including one new sub-family, Martialinae)! But that’s nothing beside the big bang of 2009 and its 9 new genera. So what is happening and who are the newbie’s and the resurrected genera?

Well, first it seems that a new prolific and very nice generation of new myrmecologists is arriving and they are eager to let their mark in myrmecology, while at the same time some more established myrmecologists have continued their great work.

The year 2008 saw the arrival of Feroponera and Promyopias Bolton & Fisher in Africa (the later been resurrected);Opamyrma Yamane et al. in Vietnam; and the new subfamily Martialinae and genus Martialis Rabeling et al. from Brazil.

The year 2009 has Kalathomyrmex and Paramycetophylax Klingerberg & Brandao from South America (the later been resurrected); Tropidomyrmex Silva et al. (2009) also from South America; Aptinoma and Ravavy Fisher (2009) from Madagascar; Austromorium Shattuck from Australia; Diaphoromyrma Fernandez et al. from Bahia (Brazil ); andPropodilobus Branstetter from Borneo.

Finally, I just found out yesterday the description of a new genus from Taiwan (or I should say from an island just beside Taiwan) by M. Terayama and called Formosimyrma (Myrmicinae).

So the total for 2009 is 7  new Myrmicine genera and 2 new Dolichoderine genera.

So 9 new genera descriptions to beat in 2010. It seems that this new year is starting well with the split of Paratrechinainto 3 genera: Paratrechina, Parapatrechina and Nylanderia (see next post) by LaPolla and collaborators.

So as a summary for 2009:

– Most genera described were Myrmicinae (7/9).

– South America (4/9), Asia (2/9), Madagascar (2/9) and Australia (1/9) are the regions that contributed to new ant genera description.

РThe journal Zootaxa has become the main journal for generic description/revision of ant taxa (8 genera on 9 described in this journal)

Some of those changes are already online on Ant Genera of the World, and the rest will come with very soon (with the next big update of our website in the coming weeks)

References:

Bolton B., and B.L. Fisher . 2008. Afrotropical ants of the ponerine genera Centromyrmex Mayr, Promyopias Santschi gen. rev. and Feroponera gen. n., with a revised key to genera of African Ponerinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).Zootaxa 1929: 1-37.

Branstetter M.G. 2009. The ant genus Stenamma Westwood (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) redefined, witha description of a new genus Propodilobus. Zootaxa 2221: 41-57.

Fernandez F., J.H.C. Delabie, and I.C. do Nascimento. 2009. Diaphoromyrma, a new myrmicine ant genus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from North Eastern Brazil. Zootaxa 2204: 55-62.

Fisher B.L. 2009. Two new dolichoderine ant genera from Madagascar: Aptinoma gen. n. and Ravavy gen. n. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 2118: 37-52.

Klingenberg C., and C.R.F. Brandao. 2009. Revision of the fungus-growing ant genera Mycetophylax Emery and Paramycetophylax Kusnezov rev. stat., and description of Kalathomyrmex n. gen. (Formicidae: Myrmicinae: Attini). Zootaxa 2052: 1-31.

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.

Rabeling C., J.M. Brown, and M. Verhaagh. 2008. Newly discovered sister lineage sheds lighton early ant evolution.PNAS 105 (39): 14913-14917.

Shattuck S.O. Austromorium, a new myrmicine ant genus from Australia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 2193: 62-68.

Silva R.R., R.M. Feitosa, C.R.F. Brandao, and J.L.M. Diniz. 2009. Tropidomyrmex elianae, a new myrmicine ant genus and species from Brazil, tentatively assigned to Solenopsidini (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Zootaxa 2052: 32-48.

Terayama M. 2009. A synopsis of the family Formicidae of Taiwan (Insecta; Hymenoptera). The Research Bulletin of Kanto Gakuen University 17: 81-266.

Yamane S., T.V. Bui, and K. Eguchi. 2008. Opamyrma hungvuong, a new genus and species of ant related toApomyrma (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Amblyoponinae). Zootaxa 1767: 55-63.



Maps update-2
December 12, 2009, 1:30 pm
Filed under: Database additions, Maps explanations

Despite the busy schedule of the past two months (see previous post), I have been able to find some new records and filled a few gaps. Here is a summary of the new modifications realized on the maps (and so in the database):

A total of 86 new records (green), 9 interpolations (blue), 2 exotic presence  (orange) and one removal have been included.

Most of the new records are scattered around the globe, and for their majority turned out to be confirmation of our interpolations (blue on the maps). Two regions in particular have been improved. Tthe first one is Acre in Brazil  (+32 new records; + 1 exotic) which has been covered those past years by Dr. Marco Antonio de Oliveira during his PhD.

The second main addition is for Pennsylvania (USA) which curiously despite his big size and large human population did not seemed to have been covered by myrmecologists pretty well in the past. Antweb now offers a list of ants for this state compiled by W. Barkley Butler (+7 new generic records).

A revision of the oriental Anillomyrma in the online earlier of Myrmecological News by Katsuyuki Eguchi, Tuan Viet Bui, David M. General, and Gary D. Alpert provides a new record for the Philippines, and the removal of this genus from Madagascar. Some incertitudes about the potential presence of this genus in Africa remains with a potential record from Tanzania by Dr. Hamish Robertson. However the authors could not have confirmation from Dr. Robertson (and neither do I). If anyone has some information about it, please let me know.

Finally, an interesting new record of the Neotropical genus Gracilidris has been brought to me by Alex Wild (see his excellent blog Myrmecos). A new record is available on Antweb for Colombia. This record represents the western and northern record for the genus and is disjunct with the rest of the range distribution which could be qualified as east-central South America.

I also want to thank Dr. Martin Bollazzi for some of the new records he provides me for Uruguay.

If some of you, dear readers has new data, as always, do not hesitate to contact me. Everybody will benefit from new additions and accurate maps.



Blog will resume shortly
December 1, 2009, 10:55 am
Filed under: Thoughts

I have been very quiet lately on blogging. Well, the reason is that I was passing the comprehensive examinations of my PhD. Now the good news is that I got them, so I am officially PhD candidate. Yeah!

The other good news is that I should be able to keep you posted concerning the website improvements and developments. We are preparing a new design for the website, with updates on the new genera that have been described recently. Hopefully, it should be ready before the end of the year…

 

 



RBINS Ant eMuseum
October 23, 2009, 1:11 pm
Filed under: Great websites / blogs | Tags: , , ,

Just want to share the address of a website I found this morning and I simply loved.

Fourmis-du-Chaco--MO

The Royal Belgium Institute of Natural Sciences has a website dedicated to the ants of Paraguayan Chaco:  RBINS Ant eMuseum. The website is developed by a team led by the Belgium entomologist Maurice Leponce and the French entomologist Thibaut Delsinne. The website offers access to the records of the species collected in Paraguay with details for the different specimens and tons of microscopic pictures. The design is very neat and the navigation on the website really pleasant.

But to me the real treasure of this website is an excellent glossary which is richly illustrated with amazing pictures. Probably the best anatomical glossary I have seen so far!  Thank you for this useful tool.

The website also offers an interactive identification key and description of the different project. I am looking forward to see the future developments…

Finally, if you want to learn more about the ants of Paraguay don’t miss the work made by the entomologist and photographer Alex Wild (aka Myrmecos) on Antweb and its¬†catalog of the ants of Paraguay published in 2007 in Zootaxa.

One last thing. Take some time to look at the animation that I borrow from the RBINS Ant eMuseum homepage, a surprise is awaiting you with the Camponotus.



Species and genus names
October 21, 2009, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Thoughts | Tags: , ,

Species and genus names are often repulsive for many students, and the picture below illustrates probably how a young student would dream his pathway in biology.

name

However, names often have a function and/ or a story. This is what I would like to talk about today.

Species names can have a specific function which is to carry some information relative to the species itself. For example, it can provide information on the color, such as in Lasius niger (niger in latin means black), the morphology (Pheidole megacephala = giant head), the size (Plagiolepis pygmaea), ¬†the behavior or ecology (Camponotus sylvaticus, sylva means forest in latin), on the provenance (Brachymyrmex patagonicus, from Patagonia in Argentina),…

But it can also be more personal, …

Often the author chooses a name in homage to someone else. Most of the time this is one of their colleague or less often  a member of their family. For example the new world genus Forelius was described in 1888 by the Italian myrmecologist Carlos Emery in honor of the Swiss Auguste Forel, and a few years later, in 1912 Forel described the new Oriental genus Emeryopone (can you guess in honor of who?). One more example with the beautiful African genus Santschiella described by Auguste Forel in 1916 probably in honor of the Italian myrmecologist Felix Sanstchi. Some other obvious genera names dedicated to myrmecologists are Bondroitia, Mayriella, Rogeria, or Wasmannia.

However, sometimes the species name is more surprising. For example today, I went through Pheidole harrisonfordi described by E.O. Wilson in 2003. It first made me laugh, but then I learned, thanks to my colleague Mike Weiser,  that Harrison Ford was really involved into conservation, especially with Conservation International. I found these two links that describes a little more the  reason why Han Solo deserved an ant species dedicated: CI link 1; and CI link 2

Another story which was famous a few years ago was the description by Brian Fisher in 2005 of a new ant from Madagascar: Proceratium google.  More info available on the official Google blog.

An other ant name that I like is the east European ant, Bothriomyrmex communista, described by Santschi from a specimen collected in Crimea (Russia) in 1919. Two years after the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917. Who said that History and Biology could not get along with each other?

Finally a name that has intrigued me at some point was Stenamma debile. In French (my native language), “debile” means stupid/ idiot. I thought that maybe A. Forster, the myrmecologist that described this species, was upset the day he described the species and decided to pass his frustration on the subject of his research. The fact is that in¬†Latin, “debile” means weak, and so it refers probably to the morphology of the ant than its intellectual capacity! ¬†And when I looked at the picture of S. debile, it can be perceived as a sort of fragile ant.

Let me know if you have more anecdotes or some name that you prefer for some reasons.



Save the ants!
October 20, 2009, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Thoughts

Yesterday morning, when I parked my car in the university parking deck I noticed that the car just beside mine add a sticker that for one time would make me¬†jealous. I usually don’t care for car stickers and North Carolina has probably the world records for the number of car stickers per habitant (and more often I would prefer don’t see them). Anyway this time the sticker said: ” Save the ants”

What? a sticker dedicated to the object of my deep passion. Believe me, I even thought to take some time to remove it from the car to put it on mine. But finally this thought cross my brain for less than 0.2 second and I finally resigned.

Anyway, here is a picture of the sticker I saw yesterday that I was able to track on internet. This one was found on a door of a fridge… I should put one in my kitchen which is invaded every summer by the odorous house ant,¬†Tapinoma sessile, that my girlfriend forces me to kill (she loves ants but not in our kitchen).

sticker