Platythyrea

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Platythyrea
Temporal range: 55–0 Ma
Early Eocene – Recent
Platythyrea punctata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Platythyreini
Genus: Platythyrea
Roger, 1863
Type species
Pachycondyla punctata, now Platythyrea punctata
Diversity
39 species
6 fossil species
(Species Checklist)

Platythyrea punctata casent0003323 profile 1.jpg

Platythyrea punctata

Platythyrea punctata casent0003323 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Synonyms

A moderately large (38 described extant species) pantropical genus and is the only member of Platythyreini. Platythyrea workers are notable for their rapid movement, arboreal habits and occurrence of gamergates in many species. One of three Kenyan species, Platythyrea modesta, is comparatively well-studied for an African ant species. It lives in polygynous colonies with approximately 50 workers and the nests are placed in pre-existing cavities in the bark or in dead branches of trees, or in termitaries of Cubitermes at the base of trees (Djieto-Lordon et al., 2001). This species is predaceous, generally hunting solitarily for insects like termites or grasshoppers and single workers are able to catch considerably large prey (Djieto-Lordon et al., 2001). Other species of Platythyrea nest in hollow twigs, rotten wood, in termitaries, or in the ground (Brown, 1975).

Photo Gallery

  • Worker from Dominican amber.

Identification

Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Platythyrea workers are distinctive and not easily confused with those of other genera, though the genus lacks unequivocal autapomorphies. Diagnostic characters of Platythyrea workers and queens include (in combination) pruinose sculpturing, broad insertion of the clypeus between the frontal lobes and the consequently widely spaced frontal lobes and antennal insertions, laterally opening metapleural gland orifice, metatibiae with two pectinate spurs, toothed tarsal claws, and projection of the helcium from near midheight on the anterior face of A3. Pruinose sculpturing is rare within Ponerini (only present in some Leptogenys and in Belonopelta, both of which lack the high helcium and broad clypeal insertion of Platythyrea), but is also shared with the proceratiine genus Probolomyrmex. Probolomyrmex differs from Platythyrea, however, in numerous characters, most obviously in its lack of frontal lobes and eyes, its single metatibial spur, its simple tarsal claws, and its lack of a stridulitrum on the pretergite of A4. In most Ponerini the clypeus is only narrowly inserted between the frontal lobes, but Thaumatomyrmex has a broad clypeal insertion (even broader than in Platythyrea). Thaumatomyrmex otherwise differs dramatically from Platythyrea, and they are unlikely to be confused. A small number of genera in Ponerini have a relatively high helcium as in Platythyrea, but these genera all lack the broad clypeal insertion and pruinose sculpturing of Platythyrea. Finally, the Australian Platythyrea dentinodis species group (formerly Eubothroponera) have a relatively low helcium, as in most Ponerini, and lack the fine pruinose sculpturing of most Platythyrea, but can be distinguished from Ponerini by their broad clypeal insertion and presence of two pectinate metatibial spurs.

Keys including this Genus

Keys to Species in this Genus

Distribution

Platythyrea is pantropical, with some species also occurring in subtropical regions of the New World, Africa, Asia, and Australia (Brown, 1975; Bolton et al., 2006).

World distribution based on political regions. View/Edit Data
Platythyrea 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

Platythyrea Species Richness.png

Biology

Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Platythyrea is an ecologically and behaviorally interesting genus. Unusually among ponerines, many Platythyrea species are arboreal, nesting in hollow branches or other preformed cavities in live or fallen trees, and foraging on tree trunks or other vegetation (Brown, 1975; Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001b; Yéo et al., 2006; Molet & Peeters, 2006). Some large African species (e.g., Platythyrea lamellosa) are terrestrial and nest at the base of termitaria or under rocks (Arnold, 1915; Brown, 1975). Platythyrea colonies are of the typical size for ponerines, with on average usually a few hundred workers or fewer (Platythyrea conradti: 100 to 500 workers; Lévieux, 1976; Molet & Peeters, 2006; Yéo et al., 2006; Platythyrea lamellose: 115 workers; Villet et al., 1990b; Platythyrea modesta: up to 50 workers; Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001b; Platythyrea parallela: 50 workers; Wilson, 1959b; Platythyrea punctata: 23-51 workers; Hartmann et al., 2005b; Platythyrea quadridenta: 19 workers; Ito, 1995; Platythyrea schultzei: 21 workers; Villet, 1991b; Platythyrea tricuspidata: 21 workers; Ito, 1995).

Platythyrea workers are very fast runners, and their speed combined with their potent venomous stings enable them to rapidly catch and subdue a wide range of prey (Brown, 1975; Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001a, 2001b). Some Platythyrea species are generalist predators (e.g., P. conradti: Yéo et al., 2006; Molet & Peeters, 2006; Platythyrea lamellose: Villet, 1990c; P. modesta: Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001a, 2001b), but many reportedly specialize on termites (e.g., Arnold, 1915; Brown, 1975) and at least one species (Platythyrea arnoldi) is apparently a specialist on adult beetles (Arnold, 1915). In an unusual behavior, P. conradti workers collect nectar onto part of their body surface for transport to the nest; the liquid is retained via surface tension (Déjean & Suzzoni, 1997). Lévieux (1983) lists an unidentified Platythyrea species as eating seeds, though this has not been confirmed (Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990). Platythyrea workers typically forage individually (e.g., Villet, 1990c), but Djiéto-Lordon et al. (2001b) observed nestmate recruitment in P. modesta to aid in retrieval of large prey. Interestingly, workers of this species sometimes carry larvae directly to their prey, rather than bringing the prey back to their nest; this behavior is otherwise unknown within the Ponerinae. P. modesta conducts frequent emigrations to new nest sites, with recruitment occurring via use of chemical trails (Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001b). The use of chemical trails by other Platythyrea species has not been reported.

Platythyrea has perhaps the highest diversity of reproductive strategies known for any ponerine genus (Villet, 1992b; Molet & Peeters, 2006). Nearly all examined Platythyrea species have gamergates, with the only exception being P. conradti, which is also the only Platythyrea species known to have ergatoid queens (Molet & Peeters, 2006). In P. conradti, queens and workers aggressively interact to form a dominance hierarchy, but high-ranking workers do not reproduce unless the queen dies. Among those species known to have gamergates, some also have alate queens (Platythyrea quadridenta, Platythyrea tricuspidata and Platythyrea arnoldi; Villet, 1993; Ito, 1995), but some have gamergates only ([[Platythyrea lamellosa, Platythyrea schultzei, and Platythyrea cf. cribrinodis; Peeters, 1987; Villet et al., 1990b; Villet, 1991b, 1991c). In addition, the reproductive strategy of Platythyrea punctata is perhaps the most variable known for any ponerine species (see below). Villet (1990c, 1991b, 1992b) examined the division of labor in colonies of P. cf. cribrinodis, P. lamellosa, and P. schultzei and found typical age-related polyethism in all species, with unmated workers of P. cf. cribrinodis laying only inviable haploid eggs.

Platythyrea punctata is a fascinating species from the standpoint of social and reproductive behavior, as it variously has alate queens, parthenogenetic apterous queens, gamergates, and parthenogenetic workers (Schilder et al., 1999a, 1999b; Hartmann et al., 2005b). In many populations of this species, reproduction occurs via thelytokous parthenogenesis (Heinze & Hölldobler, 1995), which is not known to occur in any other ponerine. Workers in parthenogenetic colonies of P. punctata aggressively compete and form dominance hierarchies, with reproduction restricted to only a small number of high-ranking individuals and with workers attacking “surplus reproductives”, as communicated by their cuticular hydrocarbon profiles (Heinze & Hölldobler, 1995; Hartmann et al., 2005a). The presence of worker policing in such colonies is surprising, since they are virtually clonal (Schilder et al., 1999b) and therefore lack any genetic conflict among colony members (Hartmann et al., 2003). The reason for the reproductive conflict is that a reduced number of reproductives leads to increased colony productivity (Hartmann et al., 2003), favoring the maintenance of social control over reproduction.

The chemical ecology of Platythyrea has not been extensively studied, but Morgan et al. (2003) found that P. punctata lacks a Dufour’s gland and lacks volatile substances in its venom gland secretions.

Yéo et al. (2006) discovered an interesting commensal association between P. conradti and the tiny myrmicine Strumigenys maynei, which nest together in the same branches. Strumigenys colonies were found in association with 75% of the examined Platythyrea nests. The Strumigenys workers apparently feed on refuse in the Platythyrea nest, and are moved without injury by Platythyrea workers if they attempt to feed on fresh prey brought into the nest.

Castes

Morphology

Worker Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 12 • Antennal club absent, gradual • Palp formula 6,4; 4,4; 4,3; 3,3; 3,2 • Total dental count 1-15 • Spur formula 2 pectinate, 2 pectinate; 2 (1 barbulate, 1 pectinate), 2 (1 barbulate, 1 pectinate) • Sting present

Male Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 13 • Antennal club 0 • Palp formula 6,4; 5,3; 4,3 • Total dental count 1-15 • Spur formula 2 pectinate, 2 pectinate; 2 (1 barbulate, 1 pectinate), 2 pectinate

Nomenclature

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

  • PLATYTHYREA [Ponerinae: Platythyreini]
    • Platythyrea Roger, 1863a: 172. Type-species: Pachycondyla punctata, by subsequent designation of Bingham, 1903: 73.
    • Platythyrea senior synonym of Eubothroponera: Brown, 1975: 6.
  • EUBOTHROPONERA [junior synonym of Platythyrea]
    • Eubothroponera Clark, 1930c: 8. Type-species: Eubothroponera dentinodis, by original designation.
    • Eubothroponera junior synonym of Platythyrea: Brown, 1975: 6.

Worker

Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Small to very large (TL 4–20 mm; Brown, 1975) ants with the standard characters of Platythyreini. Mandibles triangular, edentate or with multiple distinct teeth on the masticatory margin, and often with a basal groove. Clypeus with a flat or convex anterior margin, and a broad posterior insertion between the frontal lobes. Frontal lobes moderately large and widely separated. Eyes large to moderate in size, located anterior to head midline. Metanotal groove usually obsolete, rarely present and shallowly impressed (e.g., P. lamellosa). Propodeum broad dorsally, the posterior margins distinct and usually with a short blunt tooth at each posterodorsal corner. Propodeal spiracle usually round, rarely slit-shaped (e.g., P. lamellosa). Metapleural gland orifice opening laterally, near the posteroventral corner of the propodeum, sometimes with a shallow lateral longitudinal groove. Metatibial spur formula (1p, 1p). Tarsal claws usually armed with a single preapical tooth. Arolia prominent and bright white. Petiole nodiform, the node usually much longer than wide, with parallel sides and a distinct dorsal face, the posterodorsal margin often bi- or tridentate. Helcium usually projects from near midheight on the anterior face of A3 (projects from lower down in the P. dentinodis group). Gaster with a moderate girdling constriction between pre- and postsclerites of A4. Stridulitrum present on pretergite of A4. Head and body usually uniformly pruinose (having a frosted appearance due to extremely dense fine punctations combined with a dense short pubescence), usually also with scattered foveolations, and usually with little to no upright pilosity. Members of the P. dentinodis group lack the pruinose condition and have denser upright pilosity. Color variable, yellowish brown to black. See descriptions by Brown (1975) and Bolton (2003) for further details of worker structure in Platythyrea.

Queen

Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Very similar to conspecific workers but usually winged, with the corresponding modifications of the thoracic sclerites and usually with ocelli (though they are sometimes absent, which is a unique condition among alate ant queens) (Brown, 1975). Queens are ergatoid in some species and are completely absent in others (reviewed by Molet & Peeters, 2006).

References

  • Arnold, G. 1915. A monograph of the Formicidae of South Africa. Part I. Ponerinae, Dorylinae. Ann. S. Afr. Mus. 14: 1-159 (page 22, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Playthyreini)
  • Ashmead, W. H. 1905c. A skeleton of a new arrangement of the families, subfamilies, tribes and genera of the ants, or the superfamily Formicoidea. Can. Entomol. 37: 381-384 (page 382, Platythyrea in Pachycondylinae, Ectatommini)
  • Bingham, C. T. 1903. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Hymenoptera, Vol. II. Ants and Cuckoo-wasps. London: Taylor and Francis, 506 pp. (page 73, Type-species: Pachycondyla punctata, by subsequent designation)
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 172, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Playthyreini)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1975. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. V. Ponerinae, tribes Platythyreini, Cerapachyini, Cylindromyrmecini, Acanthostichini, and Aenictogitini. Search Agric. (Ithaca N. Y.) 5(1 1: 1-115 (page 6, Platythyrea senior synonym of Eubothroponera, and revision of genus)
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 27, Platythyrea in Ponerinae)
  • Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 28, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Playthyreini)
  • Forel, A. 1899b. Formicidae. [part]. Biol. Cent.-Am. Hym. 3: 1-24 (page 3, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Forel, A. 1900f. Les Formicides de l'Empire des Indes et de Ceylan. Part VII. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 13: 303-332 (page 314, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 237, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Playthyreini)
  • Mayr, G. 1865. Formicidae. In: Reise der Österreichischen Fregatte "Novara" um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859. Zoologischer Theil. Bd. II. Abt. 1. Wien: K. Gerold's Sohn, 119 pp. (page 14, Platythyrea in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
  • Roger, J. 1863a. Die neu aufgeführten Gattungen und Arten meines Formiciden-Verzeichnisses nebst Ergänzung einiger früher gegebenen Beschreibungen. Berl. Entomol. Z. 7: 131-214 (page 172, Platythyrea as genus)
  • 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)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 135, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1915i [1914]. The ants of the Baltic Amber. Schr. Phys.-Ökon. Ges. Königsb. 55: 1-142 (page 36, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Playthyreini)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1922i. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. VII. Keys to the genera and subgenera of ants. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 45: 631-710 (page 641, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Playthyreini)
  • Yéo, K., Molet, M. & Peeters, C. 2006. When David and Goliath share a home: Compound nesting of Pyramica and Platythyrea ants. Insectes. Sociaux 53: 435-438.