Tuesday, 1 August 2006 - 3:10 PM

Phylogenetic Position of the Ant Genus Acropyga and the Evolution of Trophophoresy

John S. LaPolla and Ted R. Schultz. Department of Entomology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, DC 20013-7012

For the vast majority of trophobiotic ants, trophobiosis is facultative.  However, for obligately trophobiotic ant species a number of particular adaptations for insuring the transfer of trophobionts from parent to daughter colonies have evolved.  These adaptations include colony budding and various forms of trophobiont carrying behavior.  The most specialized form of carrying behavior is when virgin queens depart on their mating flights carrying trophobionts between their mandibles, a behavior that has been termed trophophoresy.  For Acropyga (Formicinae) ants, all 38 species are thought to be trophophoretic.  The monophyly of Acropyga has been questioned, but this study recovers a monophyletic Acropyga with data drawn from both morphological and molecular (D2 region of 28S rRNA and EF1-alpha) datasets.  The data further suggests that Acropyga belongs within a clade containing Anoplolepis, Aphomomyrmex, and PetalomyrmexAphomomyrmex and Petalomyrmex were found to be the sister group to Acropyga.  The results indicate that the Lasiini and Plagiolepidini are not monophyletic and are in need of reexamination.

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