Melophorus graciliceps

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Melophorus graciliceps
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Melophorini
Genus: Melophorus
Species group: biroi
Species complex: biroi
Species: M. graciliceps
Binomial name
Melophorus graciliceps
Heterick, Castalanelli & Shattuck, 2017

Melophorus graciliceps major side ANIC32-900175.jpg

Melophorus graciliceps major top ANIC32-900175.jpg

Specimen labels

Evolutionary Relationships
Melophorus


Melophorus ludius species group



Melophorus potteri species group





Melophorus aeneovirens species group




Melophorus biroi species group (biroi species complex)




Melophorus biroi species group (wheeleri species complex)




Melophorus biroi species group (brevignathus species complex)



Melophorus biroi species group (fieldi species complex)







Based on Heterick et al., 2017. Only selected species groups/complexes are included.

In general, this species prefers drier areas that support mallee or savanna vegetation, and appears to favour dunes. However, there is one record from a paddock (Coombah, NSW). Six workers collected at Yathong, NSW, were also taken in a malaise trap, indicating this ant may climb on vegetation if the need arises. (Heterick et al. 2017)

Identification

Heterick et al. (2017) - Melophorus graciliceps can be placed in the Melophoprus biroi species-group on the basis of characters of the clypeus, propodeum, mandible and palps. The species is also placed in the Melophorus mjobergi clade (within the Melophoprus biroi species-complex) but differs from the most derived species, and the major worker does not have the deeply recessed area around the frontal carinae and medial sector of clypeus or the impressed setae-bearing sockets visible in the major and media workers that is seen in Melophorus mjobergi, Melophorus postlei and Melophorus compactus. Minor and major workers workers of M. graciliceps are clothed with fine, appressed silvery setae that form pubescence in the minor worker, at least, in conjunction with multiple scattered, modified erect setae (the modified setae varying from distally slightly flattened to clavate) on the head, mesosoma and gaster. This species can only be confused with its near relation, Melophorus lissotriches, but differs in having an only weakly convex eye in the minor worker (strongly convex in M. lissotriches), the eye barely interrupting the outline of head capsule. In profile, the pronotum of the minor worker rises gently, and the mesosoma is thereafter more-or-less straight, the mesonotum does not dip towards the propodeum and the metanotal groove is not demarcated by a v-shaped notch. The frontal carinae of the major worker is concave (straight or weakly convex in M. graciliceps) and the cuticle of its head is smooth and shining (matt or weakly shining in M. graciliceps).

This ant is distinguishable from all others except Melophorus lissotriches by virtue of the combination of silvery appressed pubescence and modified, erect setae. The species differs from M. lissotriches in terms of the appearance of the frontal carinae (major worker) which are concave in this ant and weakly convex in M. lissotriches, and the appearance of the mesonotal groove and the position of the compound eyes (minor worker).

Distribution

Melophorus graciliceps has a very wide distribution and has been recorded from all mainland Australian states except the ACT.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps

AntMapLegend.png

Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Biology

Heterick et al. (2017) - A three-gene tree indicates a close relationship between M. graciliceps and Melophorus biroi. On the basis of morphology, however, we predict that more inclusive sampling will reveal the former will still fall within the M. mjobergi clade.

One interesting note refers to the nest of this ant as being (verbatim) ‘strange nest, deep, narrow cone, smooth, a perfect insect trap.’ However, the principal author of this paper found a nest that was unremarkable, and it seems more likely the author of the label (B. B. Lowery) may have somehow confused the entrance burrow of an Aphaenogaster species (known to make that sort of nest) with the domicile of this Melophorus.

Castes

Worker

Nomenclature

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

  • graciliceps. Melophorus graciliceps Heterick, Castalanelli & Shattuck, 2017: 182, fig. 36 (w.) AUSTRALIA.

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

Description

Worker

(n = 8): CI 90-117; EI 20-32; EL 0.19-0.31; HL 0.67-1.32; HW 0.60-1.55; ML 0.98-1.87; MTL 0.71-0.95; PpH 0.09-0.15; PpL 0.43-0.69; SI 70-158; SL 0.95-1.08.

Minor. Head. Head square; posterior margin of head planar to strongly convex; frons shining with superficial shagreenation or microreticulation only; frons consisting almost completely of appressed setae that may form pubescence (tiny, erect setae, if present, usually confined to ocular triangle). Eye moderate (eye length 0.20–0.49 length of side of head capsule); in full-face view, eyes set above midpoint of head capsule; in profile, eye set anteriad of midline of head capsule; eyes elliptical or slightly reniform. In full-face view, frontal carinae straight or weakly convex; frontal lobes straight in front of antennal insertion. Anteromedial clypeal margin broadly and evenly convex; clypeal psammophore set at or just above anterior clypeal margin; palp formula 6,4. Five mandibular teeth in minor worker; mandibles triangular, weakly incurved; third mandibular tooth distinctly shorter than apical tooth and teeth numbers two and four; masticatory margin of mandibles approximately vertical or weakly oblique. Mesosoma. Integument of pronotum, mesonotum and mesopleuron with weak to moderate sheen and superficial microreticulation (more pronounced on mesopleuron); anterior mesosoma in profile weakly elevated anteriad, thereafter gently sinuate, pronotum and mesonotum on same plane; appearance of erect pronotal setae short and often expanded distally, at times clavate; in profile, metanotal groove a weak or vestigial furrow; propodeum shining and shagreenate; propodeum smoothly rounded or with indistinct angle; propodeal dorsum and declivity confluent; erect propodeal setae present and abundant (greater than 12), or present and sparse to moderate (1-12); appressed propodeal setulae long and closely aligned, creating pubescence; propodeal spiracle situated on or beside declivitous face of propodeum, and longer (length ≥ 0.50 × height of propodeum). Petiole. In profile, petiolar node squamiform; in full-face view, shape of petiolar node square with sharp angles; node shining and distinctly shagreenate-microreticulate. Gaster. Gaster weakly shining with indistinct shagreenation; pilosity of first gastral tergite consisting of thick, appressed setae that form pubescence, interspersed with numerous short, modified (sometimes clavate), erect setae. General characters. Colour brown to blackish-brown.

Major. Head. Head square; posterior margin of head planar or weakly concave; cuticle of frons shining and smooth except for piliferous pits; frons consisting mainly of well-spaced appressed and a few mainly modified, clavate (feather-like) erect setae. Eye moderate (eye length 0.20–0.49 length of head capsule); in full-face view, eyes set above midpoint of head capsule; in profile, eye set anteriad of midline of head capsule; eyes elliptical. In full-face view, frontal carinae straight, divergent posteriad; frontal lobes straight in front of antennal insertion. Anterior clypeal margin broadly and evenly convex; clypeal psammophore set below midpoint of clypeus; palp formula 6,4. Five mandibular teeth in major worker; mandibles triangular, weakly incurved; third mandibular tooth distinctly shorter than apical tooth and teeth numbers two and four; masticatory margin of mandibles approximately aligned vertically or weakly oblique. Mesosoma. Integument of pronotum, mesonotum and mesopleuron shining and mainly smooth, vestigial shagreenation most noticeable on humeri and mesopleuron; anterior mesosoma in profile broadly convex; erect pronotal setae short and often expanded distally, at times clavate; in profile, metanotal groove shallow, broadly V- or U-shaped; propodeum shining and generally smooth, with only weak, indistinct shagreenation; propodeum always smoothly rounded; propodeal dorsum and declivity confluent; erect propodeal setae present and abundant (at least a dozen); appressed propodeal setae long and closely aligned, creating pubescence; propodeal spiracle situated on or beside declivitous face of propodeum, and longer (length ≥ 0.50 × height of propodeum). Petiole. In profile, petiolar node squamiform; in full-face view, shape of petiolar node square with rounded angles; node shining and faintly shagreenate-microreticulate. Gaster. Gaster shining with superficial microreticulation; pilosity of first gastral tergite consisting of thick, often distally flattened, erect setae over well-spaced, short, appressed setae. General characters. Colour reddish-orange, gaster brown.

Type Material

Holotype minor worker (bottom ant) from Heathcote, near Bendigo, Victoria, 26 May 1961, B.B. Lowery, 1000 ft, dry sclerophyll, ANIC ants vial 20.238 [ANIC32-900175] (Australian National Insect Collection). Paratypes: 2 major workers on same pin and with same details as Holotype (ANIC); 1 major and 2 minor workers from Heathcote near Bendigo, Victoria, 29 May 1961, B.B. Lowery, 1000ft, dry sclerophyll, ANIC Ants Vial 20.239 (The Natural History Museum); 3 minor workers from Yathong Nature Reserve 145°40'33"S, 32°37'39"S, New South Wales, 3-25 October 2003, C. Lambkin & N. Starwick, 205m, ANIC Bulk Sample 2154, open woodland, field of flowers, Malaise [ANIC32-030855] (Museum of Comparative Zoology); 6 major and 2 minor workers from St George, Queensland, 7 January 1966, B.B. Lowery, ‘Melophorus’, Reddish soil, savannah woodland, R10 (back of label–‘strange nest–deep narrow cone, smooth, a perfect insect trap’) (Queensland Museum); 2 major and one minor worker from Calca, South Australia, 26 September 1957, B.B. Lowery, mallee scrub, ANIC Ants Vial 22.188 (South Australian Museum); 2 major workers from Westonia, Western Australia, coll. approx. 2000; Environmental Biology Department, Curtin University of Technology, [JDM32-001979] (Western Australian Museum).

Etymology

Latin gracilis (‘slender’) plus -ceps (‘-headed’ [from caput]); adjective in the nominative singular.

References