Acromyrmex ameliae

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Acromyrmex ameliae
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Acromyrmex
Species: A. ameliae
Binomial name
Acromyrmex ameliae
De Souza, Soares & Della Lucia, 2007

De Souza et al 2007-4Acromyrmex-ameliae hal.jpg

A social parasite of Acromyrmex subterraneus and Acromyrmex subterraneus brunneus.

At a Glance • Inquiline  
 

Identification

De Souza et al. (2007) - Acromyrmex ameliae is a social parasite with much smaller reproductives (females and males) than those of its hosts. Morphometrically, the A. ameliae queen is not a simple miniature of its hosts’ queens, like Myrmica microrubra and its host Myrmica rubra (Steiner et al., 2005). Here, we can distinguish the new species from the other of the group with propodeal spines: they are straight and laterally compressed unlike Acromyrmex subterraneus where they are slight to strongly curved and conical. Acromyrmex ameliae differs from Acromyrmex insinuator not only by its size and color (brown dark against yellowish-orange) but as well it does not present a single strong median ruga extending from the central ocellus to the level of the posterior borders of lateral ocelli, like A. insinuator. On the contrary, around its central ocellus, the cuticle is wholly rugous without a distinct median ruga. In A. insinuator the anteroventral edge of the postpetiole is broadly and evenly concave, without a broad median anteroventral extension. The anteroventral portion of the post-petiole in A. ameliae has irregular extensions, without the concavity present in the first species. As in Acromyrmex insinuator, reproductives (females and males) A. ameliae very much resemble the host species, although there has been a pronounced reduction in body size

Distribution

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Brazil (type locality).

Check distribution from AntMaps.

Distribution based on specimens

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The above specimen data are provided by AntWeb. Please see Acromyrmex ameliae for further details

Biology

This ant is a social parasite in the nest of Acromyrmex subterraneus and Acromyrmex subterraneus brunneus. The form of Social Parasitism is an inquiline with queens and workers smaller than their host.

De Souza et al. (2007) - There are previous reports on polygyny in the two host subspecies (Della Lucia & Vilela, 1989; Delabie, 1989). During nest collection, we indeed found three monoginic parasitized nests which had 2, 3 and 4 queens of A. ameliae. The first collection of the parasite was in October, 2003, when two nests were collected with hundreds of alate males and queens of the parasite. In April of the following year, we again collected nests with the alate parasites. This suggests that the production of the reproductive caste in A. ameliae may occur throughout the year. In the laboratory, males and queens flew towards the light, indicating that this species is likely to perform the nuptial flight in nature. As in A. insinuator, Acromyrmex ameliae produce a workforce. This seems to be essential for the production of the parasite alates (Sumner et al., 2003), but this trait is being selected against over evolutionary time, although it has not yet been lost. We need to investigate if the host cares for the parasite alates. In this case, parasite workers may not be needed.

We found alate parasites in two different seasons (April and October), unlike the host species, which has only a single synchronized nuptial flight per year in November and December. More than one nuptial flight each year could increase their likelihood of successful invasion of new colonies. The well defined nuptial flight of the hosts is normally observed in November and December so that newly fertilized parasite queens (produced in April) can colonize established colonies of A. subterraneus subterraneus and A. subterraneus brunneus well before they reproduce themselves.

We excavated 14 colonies of A. subterraneus and found all of them parasitized by A. ameliae. Thus, A. ameliae appears to be very common, yet always overlooked in the past.

Castes

Nomenclature

The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • ameliae. Acromyrmex ameliae De Souza, Soares & Della Lucia, 2007: 252, figs. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9-14 (w.q.) BRAZIL.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.

Description

Worker

HL = 0.6; HW = 0.7; ML = 0.3; WL = 0.9; SL = 0.8; ED = 0.1.

We verified that the distance from spiracle to bulla relative to pronotum width differed significantly among the minor workers of host and parasite (F1, 298 = 551.36, P < 0.01). Two groups are clearly shown in Figure 15: one had a small number (n = 25) of parasite workers and another formed by a large number of host minor workers (n = 275). The fact that the workers sorted into two groups, as well as morphological differences between the groups, is highly suggestive. We found some A. ameliae workers are larger than host minors but this is because larger host minors were not sampled. Preliminary genetic analysis by RAPD (Random amplified polymorphic DNA) markers clearly shows differences between the two groups, confirming these results. As in Acromyrmex insinuator, the workers of A. ameliae have a significantly smaller distance from their spiracle to bulla than their host minor workers of same pronotum width (Figs. 16 and 17). These results are almost identical to those obtained by Sumner et al. (2003) for A. insinuator.

Queen

Holotype: HL = 1.5; HW = 1.4; ML = 0.7; WL = 2.6; SL = 1.5; ED = 0.4.

This species has a palpal formula of 4, 2 and 11 antennal segments as is typical for attine ants. Acromyrmex ameliae queens have large and convex eyes and the inferior pronotal spines are straight and forward-positioned as in the host species. The color of the analyzed parasite queens vary from brownish to brownish-black and this is not associated with the subspecies of host ants since one can find queens of the parasite of either color in a single nest. Worker color is the only character that is presently used to separate the two host subspecies: Acromyrmex subterraneus and Acromyrmex subterraneus brunneus. The latter has a brownish-black color whereas the former is light brown to yellow (Gonçalves, 1961). The queens of A. ameliae are much smaller than those of its hosts, with a WL ~ 0.6 as great. Acromyrmex ameliae further has a more abundant pilosity with thicker and longer hairs on the gaster, on the dorsal portion of the alitrunk and on the anterior portion of the head, in comparison to that on the host subspecies. The parasite queen also has prominent ridges on the head and on the first segment of the gaster and expansions on the anteroventral margin of the postpetiole that are not seen on the host subspecies. The tubercles on the gaster of A. ameliae are more or less ordinated in four longitudinal lines similar to the host species. However, these tubercles are very much reduced and less prominent when compared to those of the hosts.

Male

Paratype: HL = 1.0; HW = 0.9; ML = 0.6; WL = 2.2; SL = 1.3; ED = 0.4.

The males of A. ameliae have 13 antennal segments. This characteristic was not constant since five individuals seemed to have 12 segments as a consequence of the fusion of segments 4 and 5 of the antennal funiculum like in the host males. This fact was also observed by Schultz et al. (1998) in Acromyrmex insinuator. Males of A. ameliae are visually smaller than the males of the studied host species (about 1.2 times). The antenna has a color gradient which ranges from dark brown to dark yellow when going from tip to base. The color of the males as well as of the queens is close to that of the host subspecies Acromyrmex subterraneus, that is, very dark brown independent of the parasitized subspecies. However, as pointed out by Gonçalves (1961), the character color shows variation even inside the same nest. Newly emerged males and queens of A. ameliae of a lighter color were observed by the authors in the nests, but they became dark brown after a few days had elapsed. Their mandibles have a terminal tooth greater than the other teeth, which vary from 5 to 7. The ventral portion of the post-petiole of the parasite has irregular projections that are not seen in the host whose petiole margin is more regular and presents a concavity not observed on the parasite. Ridges and tubercles can be observed on the gaster of A. ameliae males, but these are missing in the host species whose gaster is smooth and shiny.

Type Material

Holotype queen labeled ‘Brazil: Paraopeba MG/06 Oct 2003/ D. J. Souza’(MZUSP). Paratypes 20 queens, 20 males and 18 workers. Labeled ‘Brazil: Paraopeba MG/ 20 April 2004/ I. M. F. Soares (MZUSP).

Etymology

This species is named after Amélia Maria de Souza, mother of the first author of this work.

References