Plagiolepis barbara

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Plagiolepis barbara
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Plagiolepidini
Genus: Plagiolepis
Species group: schmitzii
Species: P. barbara
Binomial name
Plagiolepis barbara
Santschi, 1911

Common at lower elevations in the Canary Islands (as junior synonym Plagiolepis maura, Espadaler, 2007).


Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Canary Islands, Egypt, Iran, Morocco (type locality), Turkey.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Espadaler (2007) (as Plagiolepis maura) - Canary Islands: This is a frequent ant at low altitudes although it was collected also at 600m and 850m. Nests are in soil, usually under stones or small wood debris. This identification is provisional. I have not used the name P. barbara canariensis, used by Wellenius (1955) for his samples from El Hierro, because males and females of this species are much larger; in addition, the conspecificity of this last taxon with P. schmitzii is highly probable (unpublished observations). This species has been exceedingly difficult to deal with. The West Mediterranean Plagiolepis sorely need a complete revision, as what follows attest. The key characteristic is aptery in sexuals: in early spring, small males were present in a nest at Arenas Blancas, running very rapidly. Its apterous aspect, suggested at first a social parasite. Thereafter, as all queens from El Hierro showed also to be apterous, their true nature was evident. Sexuals are not ergatoid: but for the lack of wings they have the characteristic male and gyne morphology. At Pié del Risco, one fully winged male was collected. This is the first free-living formicine ant in which wingless males have been noted. After checking material from other islands, it was soon clear that this is best interpreted as a case of wing polymorphism: in queens from the islands of Gran Canaria and La Gomera there is a variable degree of thoracic simplification, from a complete winged thorax to an apterous morphology, lacking tegulae and with a fused scutum and scutellum. An enhanced pilosity in pronotum and scutellum seems to be correlated with thorax simplification.

Aptery in ant males and queens has appeared independently several times under distinct selective pressures and its functional significance is also diverse (Heinze & Ysuji, 1995; Espadaler 1997). Two other species in the genus Plagiolepis are known to have wingless males (P. xene Stärcke and P. ampeloni (Faber) or wingless females (P. ampeloni) although this is probably related with the parasitic life of both species. It is legitimate to speculate on wing loss though none of the hypotheses exposed in Wagner & Liebherr (1992) seems to apply in this case. Habitat stability is not applicable because of the recent volcanic eruptions and large-scale landslides at El Hierro (Gee et al., 2001). Habitat isolation neither seems to be appropriate as the numerous sites where this species has been collected attest. The energetic cost of flight is also to be rejected: El Hierro has not a cold climate and, even if the prevailing trade winds, from the Southwest are high, this admittedly ad-hoc explanation is invalidated by the fact that the similarly sized males and females of Solenopsis canariensis have retained full wings. The possibility of winged queens at El Hierro cannot be rejected.

El Hierro is the youngest of the Canary Islands. Thus, one would expect it to be the island with a lesser degree of endemic species. Instead, as Izquierdo et al. (2001: 23) show, it has the highest percentage of endemics, whether considering all terrestrial species of the whole Canary Islands (24.6%) or only the Insecta (40.6%). It has a similar level of endemic vascular flora (18.4%) as La Palma, Gomera or Tenerife. On the contrary, if we consider only the subset of Canarian endemics, and the endemics strictly found in a single island, El Hierro has the lowest percentage (15.7) of this last selective group. This seemingly contradictory pattern is probably caused by its young age and by the paucity of colonization events given the main direction of the southwest blowing trade winds.



The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • barbara. Plagiolepis pygmaea var. barbara Santschi, 1911i: 286 (w.m.) TUNISIA.
    • Santschi, 1920g: 172 (q.).
    • Status as species: Santschi, 1920g: 172; Emery, 1921d: 315; Menozzi, 1922b: 330; Emery, 1924c: 170; Emery, 1925b: 20; Menozzi, 1927g: 379; Wheeler, W.M. 1927g: 114; Santschi, 1931a: 10; Menozzi, 1934: 163; Santschi, 1936c: 206; Menozzi, 1940: 270; Finzi, 1940: 163; Bernard, 1945: 136; Ceballos, 1956: 310; Collingwood & Yarrow, 1969: 77; Bernard, 1971: 8; Baroni Urbani, 1976: 215; Mei, 1995: 767.
    • Subspecies of schmitzii: Bernard, 1967: 276 (in key); Cagniant, 1970c: 28; Cagniant, 2006a: 194.
    • Junior synonym of schmitzii: Collingwood, 1978: 71; Bolton, 1995b: 335; Sharaf, Aldawood & Taylor, 2011: 208.
    • Senior synonym of maura: Seifert, 2020: 195.
    • Status as species: Seifert, 2020: 194.
  • maura. Plagiolepis maura Santschi, 1920g: 169, fig. 1M,N (w.q.m.) MOROCCO, TUNISIA, ALGERIA.
    • Subspecies of pallescens: Emery, 1924a: 8; Emery, 1925b: 21; Wheeler, W.M. 1927g: 114; Menozzi, 1932e: 453; Menozzi, 1934: 163; Finzi, 1936: 184; Santschi, 1936c: 206; Menozzi, 1940: 270; Donisthorpe, 1942a: 31; Báez & Ortega, 1978: 190; Bolton, 1995b: 335; Sharaf, Aldawood & Taylor, 2011: 206 (redescription); Kiran & Karaman, 2012: 14.
    • Status as species: Bernard, 1945: 136; Wellenius, 1955: 13; Barquin Diez, 1981: 381; Collingwood, 1985: 297; Collingwood & Agosti, 1996: 362; Mohamed, Zalat, et al. 2001: 47; Cagniant, 2006a: 194; Espadaler, 2007: 121; Salata, Borowiec & Radchenko, 2018: 820.
    • Junior synonym of barbara: Seifert, 2020: 195.

Taxonomic Notes

Borowiec & Salata (2020): Status of this taxon remains unclear and with great probability its records from the Middle East concern recently described Plagiolepis perperamus (now a junior synonym of Plagiolepis atlantis).