Austroponera

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Austroponera
Temporal range: 23.03–0 Ma
Early Miocene – Recent
Austroponera rufonigra
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Alliance: Ponera genus group
Genus: Austroponera
Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014
Type species
Euponera (Brachyponera) rufonigra, now Austroponera rufonigra
Diversity
3 species
1 fossil species
(Species Checklist)

Pachycondyla rufonigra casent0249178 p 1 high.jpg

Pachycondyla rufonigra casent0249178 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels

Austroponera is a small genus (3 described species) which is restricted to Australia and New Zealand. While it is found in a variety of habitats it is nowhere common and is biologically little known.

Identification

Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Workers of this genus can be separated from other Ponerinae by the combination of the following characters: anterior clypeal margin convex, without a blunt anteromedial rectangular projection and in side view posterior to the anterior margin of head (the clypeus rounded above mandibles), mandibles triangular and relatively short, their outer margins generally flat or convex medially and lacking a basal pit or groove, the ventral apex of the metatibia with both a large pectinate spur and a smaller simple spur, the propodeal spiracle round or ovoid, and a prora present on the anterior margin of the first gastral sternite. Austroponera is morphologically similar to several other ponerine genera. These include Brachyponera, from which it can be separated by the lack of a basal mandibular pit or groove and the presence of a prora on the anterior margin of first gastral sternite; Cryptopone, which has stout traction setae on the dorsum of the mesotibiae (these are absent in Austroponera); Pseudoponera, which has a slit-shaped rather than round propodeal spiracle as found in Austroponera; and Rasopone, from which it can be separated by its presence of a stridulatory organ on A4 and its rounded rather than angular anterior clypeal margin. While not closely related based on the findings of Schmidt (2013), Austroponera is morphologically similar to some Mesoponera species. It differs in the shape of the clypeus (in side view the anterior clypeal margin is posterior to the anterior margin of the head, the clypeus being rounded above mandibles) and in having shorter mandibles which have their outer margins generally flat or convex medially rather than concave. While these two genera are superficially similar and the differences outlined here subtle, they are not closely related and the similarities are due to convergence rather than relatedness.

Keys including this Genus

Distribution

World distribution based on political regions. View/Edit Data
Austroponera Distribution.png Worlddistribution legend.jpg

Species richness

Species richness by country based on regional taxon lists (countries with darker colours are more species-rich). View Data

Austroponera Species Richness.png

Biology

Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Species of Austroponera are found in a diversity of habitats ranging from open situations such as roadsides, pastures and gardens to native forests (Don, 2008; Heterick, 2009). Nests are small, with tens rather than hundreds of workers, and are found in rotting wood, leaf litter, under rocks, or directly in the soil (Brown, 1958). They are predacious and attracted to sweet baits. Workers are often encountered in leaf litter samples and pitfall traps and when disturbed are timid, retreating into their nests (Don, 2008). Both winged (in Austroponera castaneicolor) and ergatoid (in Austroponera castanea) queens are known to occur in the genus (Wilson & Taylor, 1967).

Castes

Nomenclature

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

  • AUSTROPONERA [Ponerinae: Ponerini]
    • Austroponera Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 180. Type-species: Euponera (Brachyponera) rufonigra, by original designation.

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

Description

Schmidt and Shattuck (2014):

Worker

Medium-sized (TL 4–5 mm) ants with the standard characters of Ponerini. Mandibles triangular, relatively short, with roughly ten teeth and no basal pit or groove. Anterior margin of clypeus broadly convex and often with a small projecting tooth medially. Frontal lobes small. Scapes not flattened basally. Eyes moderate in size, located anterior of head midline. Mesopleuron divided by a transverse groove. Metanotal groove either shallowly depressed or reduced to a suture. Propodeum dorsally broad, not narrowed anteriorly. Propodeal spiracle round. Metatibial spur formula (1s, 1p). Petiole squamiform. Subpetiolar process lacking an anterior fenestra. Helcium low on anterior face of A3. Girdling constriction between pre- and postsclerites of A4 apparent. Stridulitrum present on pretergite of A4. Head and body with scattered pilosity. Color reddish-brown to dark brown.

Queen

Similar to worker, but winged or ergatoid and with the other differences typical for alate ponerine queens.

Etymology

Austroponera is a combination of austro, Latin for south and referring to Australia, the region where this genus occurs, together with ponera from the subfamily name Ponerinae.

References

  • Schmidt, C.A. & Shattuck, S.O. 2014. The higher classification of the ant subfamily Ponerinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with a review of ponerine ecology and behavior. Zootaxa. 3817, 1–242 (doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3817.1.1)