Thursday, 4 October 2012

Two new species of Ant from northwest India.

Ants of the genus Tetramorium are one of the most successful and and numerous groups of Ants, with nearly 500 species described globally. They are at their most abundant in tropical Africa, where there are at least 230 described species, but are common throughout the Old World. Only 13 species have been described from the Americas. The common European Pavement Ant (Tetramorium caespitum) is a member of the genus.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 11 July 2012, Himender Bharti and Rakesh Kumar of the Department of Zoology & Environmental Sciences at Punjabi University announce the discovery of two new species within the genus Tetramorium from India, and in addition the discovery of three species in northwest India not previously recorded within that part of the country.

The first new species described is named Tetramorium shivalikense, after the Shivalik Mountains where the Ants were discovered. The Ants were found in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand States, living in soil and leaf litter. The species is described on the basis of 101 worker Ants, found at altitudes of between 420 and 1140 m. Neither the queen nor the male Ants were discovered.

Worker of Tetramorium shivalikense in lateral view. Bharti & Kumar (2012).

The second new species described is named Tetramorium triangulatum, a name which refers to the triangular propodeal spines (spines on the back of the thorax) of the Ants. This species is also from the Shivalik Mountains, and was collected from soil samples in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand States, at altitudes of between 250 and 940 m. The species is described from 48 workers, 25 queens and 32 male Ants.

Tetramorium triangulatum worker (top), male (middle) and queen (bottom). Bharti & Kumar (2012).

The first species described from northwest India for the first time is Tetramorium caldarium, a tramp species (species spread widely around the world by human behavior) previously known from Germany, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Norfolk Island, Rajastan, Jaipur, Mauritius, Madeira, Cape Verde, Great Britain, New Caledonia, Egypt, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, St Helena, USA, Mexico, Puerto Rica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Columbia, Brazil and Peru. The species is reported in Punjab State from a single worker Ant found on disturbed ground in Patiala.

Tetramorium caldarium worker. Bharti & Kumar (2012).

The second species found in the area for the first time is Tetramorium tonganum, which was found to be fairly widespread in the Shivalik Mountains, being collected from a number of sites in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Worker, queen and male ants were all discovered, and the male of the species described for the first time. The species has previously been described from Tonga, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan, The Philippines and a number of Pacific islands.

 Tetramorium tonganum worker (top), queen (middle) and male (bottom). Bharti & Kumar (2012).

The final species recorded is Tetramorium urbanii, previously described from Bhutan and now described in India for the first time, from two workers found in Shillong in Meghalaya State in the northwest of India.

Tetramorium urbanii worker. Bharti & Kumar (2012).

See also Ants in the diet of a Cambodian Pitcher PlantNew species of Ghost Ant named after Edward O. Wilson and Evidence of fungal parasites modifying the behavior of ants from the Eocene Messel Shale.

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