Thursday, July 9, 2015

A new ant: Tetramorium cavernicola

The widely distributed ant genus Tetramorium is among the most species-rich ant genera in the world. Currently, we know 600 species, but scientists expect the total count to be closer to 700 or more species. Most of those species are found in the tropics and subtropics and Madagascar is the place where it is by far the most species-rich ant genus. 

Colleagues have now found and described a new member of the genus: Tetramorium cavernicola

The name of the new species is Latin and means “cave dweller” or “cave inhabitant”. It refers to the fact that the species is known only from a cave in Ankarana.

Abstract: In this study we provide an update to the taxonomy of the ant genus Tetramorium Mayr in Madagascar. We report the first record of the T. setigerum species group in Madagascar and describe the only Malagasy representative as T. cavernicola sp. n., which is known only from a cave in Ankarana. In addition, we provide an overview of the 19 proposed Malagasy species groups, and discuss their zoogeography and relationships to other groups and larger lineages within the hyper-diverse genus Tetramorium. At present, we recognise a highly unique Malagasy Tetramorium fauna with 113 species endemic to the island of Madagascar out of a total of 125 translating into an endemism rate of 93%. We hypothesise that this fauna is based on one or a few colonisation events from the Afrotropical region, with subsequent adaptive radiation in Madagascar. Furthermore, we present an updated and illustrated identification key to the Tetramorium species groups in the Malagasy region.

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