Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ward, Philip S. & Downie, Douglas A. (2004) The ant subfamily Pseudomyrmecinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): phylogeny and evolution of big-eyed arboreal ants. Systematic Entomology 0 (0), -. (Online Early).

Abstract. The ant subfamily Pseudomyrmecinae comprises three genera of hyperoptic, arboreal ants, widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions: Pseudomyrmex (200 species, New World), Myrcidris (two species, South America) and Tetraponera (100 species, Palaeotropics). The phylogenetic relationships among these ants were investigated using DNA sequence data (5.2 kb from 18S rDNA, 28S rDNA, wingless, abdominal-A, and long-wavelength rhodopsin genes) and 144 morphological characters, both separately and in combination. Data were gathered from a representative set of forty-nine pseudomyrmecine species, plus eighteen species from various outgroups. There was substantial agreement among the results obtained from different datasets, and from different methods of phylogenetic inference (parsimony, Bayesian inference). The monophyly of the following groups is strongly supported (100% bootstrap support and 1.00 posterior probability in the molecular dataset): Pseudomyrmecinae, Pseudomyrmex, and Pseudomyrmex + Myrcidris. The status of the genus Tetraponera is less clear: the DNA sequence data indicate that the genus is paraphyletic, but morphological features and a unique insertion in the 28S gene support the monophyly of this taxon. Seven of nine Pseudomyrmex species groups, established previously on the basis of morphology alone, are strongly upheld, but monophyly is rejected for the P. pallens group and the P. viduus group. In the latter case, molecular evidence indicates the existence of two independent clades, associated with the ant-plants Triplaris and Tachigali, respectively, whose convergent morphological features had caused them to be placed erroneously in the same species group. The present results confirm an earlier assertion that obligate associations with domatia-bearing plants have arisen at least twelve times in the subfamily. Molecular and morphological data support the hypothesis of a sister-group relationship between Pseudomyrmecinae and Myrmeciinae (84% parsimony bootstrap, combined dataset), which implies a Cretaceous origin of the stem-group pseudomyrmecines in the southern hemisphere. Pseudomyrmecines appear to have arisen in the Palaeotropics and later dispersed from Africa to South America, where they experienced a pronounced burst of diversification.

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