This is a fairly wide ranging species and the only species to occur outside Australia (in Papua New Guinea). Its main range is coastal northern New South Wales north through Queensland, with a smaller disjunct population in southern PNG. Given this wide distribution and the broad range of habitats in which it is found (see below), it is curious that in Australia this species occurs in three fairly narrow regions separated by areas where it is apparently absent. There is no morphological evidence to indicate that more than one species is involved, yet this distribution pattern might suggest otherwise. Additional investigation into this pattern may be well rewarded.
Aphaenogaster pythia occurs in a wide range of habitats including coastal scrub, dry sclerophyll, suburban parks and pastures, wet sclerophyll and rainforests. Nests are either in the open with large funnel-shaped entrances or under rocks or logs on the ground. Foragers are rarely seen above ground and then only in the immediate area of the nest; they apparently never forage on the ground surface. The biology of this species was discussed by Hitchcock (1958) and its control by Hitchcock (1962).
Hairs on underside of head randomly distributed and not forming a distinct psammophore; posterior margin of head nearly flat in full face view, extending laterally of the occipital collar before passing through a distinct posterolateral corner into the lateral margin of the head; propodeal spines short; scape relatively short (SI less than 125). This species is most similar to A. reichelae, and can be separated from it by the relatively shorter scapes and in having distinct dorsal and posterior petiolar node faces.
Keys including this Species
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
Check data from AntWeb
Heterick (2009) - Aphaenogaster pythia diggings cause degradation of pastures and recreational and service areas such as unsealed airstrips.
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- pythia. Aphaenogaster (Deromyrma) pythia Forel, 1915b: 76 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Wheeler, W.M. 1916j: 220 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1972b: 239 (l.). Combination in Aphaenogaster (Nystalomyrma): Wheeler, W.M. 1916j: 219. See also: Smith, M.R. 1961b: 229; Shattuck, 2008a: 41.
- Neotype, worker, Millstream National Park, near Ravenshoe, Queensland, Australia, Lowery,B.B., ANIC32-000767, Australian National Insect Collection.
The nomenclatural history of this species is rather complex. Forel (1915) stated that there were two species of Australian Aphaenogaster, longiceps and ruginota, and listed differences between them. He then said “Sollte der Typus von Smith irgendwo zum Vorschein kommen und sich gegen meine Annahme als mit ruginota und nicht mit Mayr's Typen identisch erweisen, schlage ich für letztere den Namen pythia n. sp. vor.” (“Should the type of Smith appear somewhere and turn out identical, against my assumption, with ruginota and not with Mayr's (1862) types, I suggest for the latter the name pythia n. sp.”) (Mayr (1862) had described queens and males under the name longiceps from four localities, Gayndah, Peak Downs, Rockhampton and Sydney.) To resolve the identity of longiceps Wheeler (1916) sent samples to H. Donisthorpe (British Museum (Natural History), London) for direct comparison with the Smith type of longiceps. Wheeler (1916) reports that “(Donisthorpe) writes me that (Smith's) type is undoubtedly what Forel calls ruginota, and not what he calls longiceps. Hence ruginota becomes a synonym of longiceps, Smith, and the rarer Queensland form, Forel's longiceps, which was unknown to Smith, must take the name pythia, Forel.” A few lines later Wheeler states that “Mayr probably confused both species” and that “... as (Mayr) introduced no new names his interpretation is now a matter of little moment.” Finally, Wheeler lists the type locality for pythia as Herberton, one of the localities mentioned by Forel (1915) for specimens he examined under the name longiceps. It seems clear that Wheeler (1916) interpreted Forel's name pythia as applying to material examined by Forel (1915) under the name longiceps, and not to material examined by Mayr (1862) (although the comment “... and the rarer Queensland form” is puzzling as it seems to apply to pythia rather than longiceps).
Smith (1961) next examined pythia during a study of Papua New Guinean species of Aphaenogaster. He states that “Forel 1915 assigned the provisional name pythia to the specimens studied by Mayr (1862) should they prove to be not longiceps or any previous described species” and “Wheeler errored however in designating Herberton, Queensland, as the type locality of pythia as none of the specimens studied by Mayr came from there.” Thus Smith (1961) interpreted Forel (1915) as establishing a new available name by indication for material referred to by Mayr (1862) and not for material identified as longiceps by Forel (1915), as Wheeler (1916) had.
Of these two interpretations, Smith's (1961) is here accepted as the correct one. Given this, the type material for the name pythia becomes that examined by Mayr (1862). Unfortunately this material was destroyed during World War I (Smith 1961), leaving the name without extant type material. Thus it is currently impossible to know to what species the name pythia should be applied. Even without type material, essentially all authors since Wheeler (1916) have followed the concept developed by Wheeler (1916) for the species to which this name has been applied. This situation is certainly less than ideal and has the potential to cause considerable disruption to the nomenclature of this group. To resolve this confusion a neotype was designated for Forel's A. pythia by Shattuck (2008).
Posterior margin of head nearly flat in full face view, extending laterally of the occipital collar before passing through a distinct posterolateral corner into the lateral margin of the head. Hairs on venter of head randomly distributed and not forming a distinct psammophore. Mandibular sculpture composed of irregularly sized striations. Erect hairs on mesosomal dorsum tapering to sharp points. Propodeal spines short. Dorsal surfaces of propodeum and propodeal spines connected through a gentle concavity (so that the base of each spine is at approximately the same level as the dorsal surface of the propodeum). Petiolar node (in dorsal view) wider than long.
- Forel, A. 1915b. Results of Dr. E. Mjöbergs Swedish Scientific Expeditions to Australia 1910-13. 2. Ameisen. Ark. Zool. 9(1 16: 1-119 (page 76, worker described)
- Heterick, B. E. 2009. A guide to the ants of South-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 76:1-206.
- Hitchcock, B. E. (1962). Funnel ant flights in 1961. Cane Growers Quart. Bull. (Queensland), 26: 65–66.
- Mayr, G. (1862). Myrmecologische Studien. Verhandlungen der Kaiserlich-Königlichen Zoologisch-Botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien, 12: 649–776.
- Shattuck,S.O. (2008). Australian ants of the genus Aphaenogaster (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa, 1677: 25–45.
- Smith, M. R. 1961b. A study of New Guinea ants of the genus Aphaenogaster Mayr (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Acta Hymenopterol. 1: 213-238 (page 229, see also)
- Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1972b. Ant larvae of the subfamily Myrmicinae: second supplement on the tribes Myrmicini and Pheidolini. J. Ga. Entomol. Soc. 7: 233-246 (page 239, larva described)
- Wheeler, W. M. 1916n. The Australian ants of the genus Aphaenogaster Mayr. Trans. R. Soc. S. Aust. 40: 213-223 (page 220, queen, male described; page 219, combination in Aphaenogaster (Nystalomyrma))