Ants of Crete

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Salata et al. (2018) - Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and the biggest island of Greece. It’s situated on the southernmost part of the Aegean Sea, with an area of 8400 km2 (Vogiatzakis et al. 2008). The landscape is mountainous, defined by 15 high mountain ranges crossing from west to east, three of them exceeding 2000 m of altitude. The main island is also surrounded by about 36 larger or smaller offshore islets. The mountains create huge regional variations in Crete’s Mediterranean climate, with rain-excesses and rain shadows. In general, aridity increases from west to east and from north to south. Annual precipitation ranges from about 240 mm in the south-east to at least 2000 mm in the high White Mountains range (Lefka Ori) (Grove et al. 1993). Temperature on mountains seems to fall at a rate of about 6°C per 1000 m (Rackham & Moody 1996). Above 1600 m most of the precipitation falls as snow that covers the ground from late October until May (or locally even July). The high mountains are limestone. Crete shows significant temperature gradients in west-east and north-south directions (Vogiatzakis et al. 2008).

Crete, next to Cyprus, is one of two large Mediterranean islands that has not been subject of intense myrmecological studies. Almost all knowledge of myrmecofauna of this island comes from papers published before World War II, including faunistic notes (Lucas 1854, Forel 1886, 1889, 1910, Emery 1894, 1921, 1925, Müller 1923, Santschi 1927a, Stitz 1928) and a few descriptions of new, mostly endemic, taxa (Forel 1886, 1889, 1910, Emery 1894, 1906, 1908a, 1908b, Karavaiev 1912, 1927, Santschi 1929). Consequently, they do not take into account many taxa that have been divided into groups of species as a result of modern revisions. In recent years we have observed an increase in myrmecological research worldwide, including Crete as a study target, and they are mainly regional checklists (Legakis 2011, Borowiec & Salata 2012, 2013), and modern revisions (Radchenko 1997, Boer 2013, Borowiec & Salata 2014a, Csősz et al. 2015, Salata & Borowiec 2015a, 2017).

Based on literature, 106 ant species were recorded from Crete (Legakis 2011, Borowiec & Salata 2012, 2013, Csősz et al. 2015, Salata & Borowiec 2015a, 2017, 2018). There are 20 taxa described from Crete, among which 7 have an endemic status (Appendix 1). Except one Lasius species, all valid endemic Cretan species are members of the subfamily Myrmicinae. The highest number of endemics belongs to Aphaenogaster (3 species). Other endemic species are members of Temnothorax (1), Monomorium (1) and Oxyopomyrmex (1) respectively. Nevertheless, our study shows that there is at least one more endemic species of Formicinae subfamily as well: Cataglyphis cretica. The degree of endemism of Cretan myrmecofauna was estimated by Legakis (1983) at 16%. Nevertheless, in the same study, only 45 ant species were considered as present on Crete. Legakis & Kypriotakis (1994) published a review of endemic Cretan flora and fauna showing that 56% of all endemic animals were found in mountainous areas, a fact mainly attributed to the complex geological history of the island. A more recent study (Triantis & Mylonas 2009) indicated that land snails endemism can reach up to 50%. These results have shown that myrmecofauna of Crete is poorly investigated and needs more detailed study.

Material and data collected between 2007 and 2014, contributed to confirm that the species diversity of Cretan ants ant fauna is rich and comprises several undescribed, and probably endemic species.


This page, and the list of species, is a work in progress.












Key to Lasius of Crete

Salata and Borowiec (2018) - Based on the literature (Forel 1886, 1889, 1910, Neuenschwander et al.1983, Legakis 2011, Borowiec and Salata 2012) there are 7 Lasius species reported from Crete: L. alienus, L. brunneus, L. niger, L. paralienus, L. lasioides, L. psammophilus, and L. turcicus, all members of the subgenus Lasius s. str. Our study con¬firmed the presence of the last 3 listed species and shown 4 species new for Cretan fauna: L. bombycina, L. myops, L. illyricus and L. tapinomoides, the latter being endemic to Crete and new to science. The first records of L. alienus and L. niger come from literature published in the 19th century (Forel 1886, 1889). Seifert (1992) proved that Crete is beyond the range of occurrence of these species, thus those records probably refer to L. bombycina or L. psammophilus. Based on most recent revisions (Seifert 1992, Seifert and Galkowski 2016) Lasius brunneus and L. paralienus should also be excluded from the list of Cretan species. On Crete they are replaced by L. lasioides and L. bombycina respectively. Lasius myops and L. illyricus were recorded on Crete only from high mountains (above 1000 m a.s.l.). These two species are common on Greek mainland, and most often were recorded from lower altitudes. Cretan record of L. illyricus is so far the southernmost known place of occurrence of this species. It is worth noting that all Lasius species known from Crete manifest independent colony foundation. The updated list of Cretan Lasius is as follows: L. bombycina, L. myops, L. illyricus, L. lasioides, L. psammophilus, L. tapinomoides, and L. turcicus, six members of Lasius s. str. and one representative of Cautolasius.




Salata and Borowiec ((2019) published a revision of the Messor of Greece. They noted the taxonomic work for this genus is not complete. Their focus in what they called a preliminary study was to clarify what species are apparently present, and for those species with unambiguous taxonomy, to provide details regarding what is known about them.














Key to the Temnothorax of Crete

Salata et al. (2018) revised the Temnothorax of Crete.