Plagiolepis pallescens maura
|Plagiolepis pallescens maura|
|Subspecies:||P. pallescens maura|
|Plagiolepis pallescens maura|
Common at lower elevations in the Canary Islands.
Keys including this Species
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
Check data from AntWeb
Espadaler (2007) - 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this species are much larger; in addition, the conspecificity of this last taxon with P. schmitzii is highly probable (unpublished observations).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 New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- maura. Plagiolepis maura Santschi, 1920g: 169, fig. 1 (w.q.m.) MOROCCO. Currently subspecies of pallescens: Emery, 1924a: 8; Santschi, 1936c: 206. See also: Sharaf, Aldawood & Taylor, 2011: 206.
- Emery, C. 1924a. Formiche della Cirenaica raccolte dal Dott. Enrico Festa e dal Prof. Filippo Silvestri. Boll. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 56:6-11. (page 8, Subspecies/stirps of pallescens)
- Espadaler, X. 2007. The ants of El Hierro (Canary Islands). Pages 113-127 in R. R. Snelling, B. L. Fisher, and P. S. Ward, editors. Advances in ant systematics (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): homage to E. O. Wilson - 50 years of contributions. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute, Gainesville, FL. 80:690 pp.
- Santschi, F. 1920g. Cinq nouvelles notes sur les fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 53:163-186. (page 169, fig. 1 worker, queen, male described)
- Santschi, F. 1936c. Liste et descriptions de fourmis du Maroc. Bull. Soc. Sci. Nat. Maroc. 16:198-210. (page 206, Subspecies/stirps of pallescens)
- Sharaf, M., Aldawood, A. and Taylor, B. 2011 The formicine ant genus Plagiolepis Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Arabian Peninsula, with description of two new species. Transactions of the American Entomological Society. 137:(1+2) 203-215.