Mycetomoellerius turrifex

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Mycetomoellerius turrifex
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Mycetomoellerius
Species: M. turrifex
Binomial name
Mycetomoellerius turrifex
(Wheeler, W.M., 1903)

Trachymyrmex turrifex casent0104760 profile 1.jpg

Trachymyrmex turrifex casent0104760 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

Synonyms

Dense populations occur in southern Texas, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley. When occurring sympatrically in sandy soils with Trachymyrmex septentrionalis, M. turrifex is less abundant, but the reverse pattern occurs in black clay soils where turrifex is usually more common than septentrionalis. The characteristic turret like nest entrances, which are built from soil particles and plant litter debris during the wetter parts of the year, are a diagnostic character for turrifex in the field. Turrets are absent during winter dormancy and are reduced or absent in summer, particularly after a period of drought. Nests consist of 1–5 chambers, which are connected by vertical tunnels. Colonies are monogynous and contain up to 300 workers. (Rabeling et al. 2007)

Photo Gallery

  • Mycetomoellerius turrifex. While fungus feeders, these ants use fallen oak catkins and other debris in their famrs rather than cut vegetation. Photo by Alex Wild.

Identification

Mycetomoellerius turrifex is distinguished from North American species of Mycetomoellerius, Paratrachymyrmex and Trachymyrmex by its well-developed antennal scrobes. Only the allopatric Mycetomoellerius jamaicensis has comparably developed antennal scrobes, but it may be easily distinguished from M. turrifex by its larger size, reddish-black coloration and shorter clypeal pilosity. (Rabeling et al. 2007)

Keys including this Species

Distribution

The geographic range of M. turrifex is centered in Texas and extends into southern Oklahoma, western Louisiana, and south into the Mexican States of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas. (Rabeling et al. 2007)

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States (type locality).
Neotropical Region: Mexico.


Distribution based on AntMaps

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Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Habitat

M. turrifex is abundant in open desert habitats of west Texas, the black clay soils of central Texas and is somewhat less abundant in the sandy soils of eastern Texas and western Louisiana. (Rabeling et al. 2007)

Biology

It is nowhere very abundant and is easily overlooked on account of its extremely retiring disposition. Its nests and mushroom gardens are similar to those of Trachymyrmex septentrionalis. The entrance to the nest is very often surmounted by a peculiar turret, sometimes 1 1/4 inches high and built of little twigs, leaves, etc. (Wheeler 1903)

Castes

Worker

Nomenclature

The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • turrifex. Atta (Trachymyrmex) turrifex Wheeler, W.M. 1903b: 100, fig. 6 (w.q.) U.S.A.
    • Combination in Trachymyrmex: Gallardo, 1916b: 242.
    • Combination in Mycetomoellerius: Solomon et al., 2019: 948.
    • Senior synonym of caroli: Rabeling, Cover, et al. 2007: 23.
  • caroli. Atta (Trachymyrmex) turrifex subsp. caroli Wheeler, W.M. 1911g: 248 (w.) U.S.A. Combination in Trachymyrmex: Creighton, 1950a: 324. Junior synonym of turrifex: Rabeling, Cover, et al. 2007: 23.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.

Mycetomoellerius turrifex is distributed throughout Texas, northeastern Mexico, western Louisiana, and rarely reaches southern Oklahoma. Individuals are somewhat variable in size, and color varies from light yellowish brown to dark reddish-brown. Wheeler (1903) described turrifex from several localities in Central Texas, and M. turrifex caroli as a subspecies of M. turrifex from Huntsville, Texas (1911). Wheeler’s reasoning was that caroli “represents a depauperate, arenicolous race ranging considerably eastwards of the typical turrifex” (Wheeler 1911, p. 248). Wheeler distinguished between these two “subspecies” based on the smaller body size, brownish yellow coloration, smaller tubercles, and lack of longitudinal impression on first gastric tergite in M. turrifex caroli. In our experience, all of these character states fall well within the variation observed within and among colonies of typical turrifex, as seen throughout its known geographic range, which now extends to western Louisiana and places Huntsville towards the center of M. turrifex’s distribution. Since we were not able to locate Wheeler’s type specimens of M. turrifex caroli, we collected fresh material at the type locality in Huntsville, Texas. These specimens were morphologically not different from other examined turrifex. Lastly, our DNA sequence information indicates that caroli is also genetically not distinct from turrifex. We therefore synonymize M. turrifex caroli with M. turrifex. (Rabeling et al. 2007)

Description

Worker

Diagnosis from Rabeling et al. (2007): HL 0.88–1.0, HW 0.8–0.96, CI 91–96, SL 0.72–0.8, SI 83–91, ML 1.2–1.4. A medium sized, species (HL 0.88–1.0, HW 0.8–0.96) with the shortest antennal scapes (SI 83–91) relative to head width of all US Mycetomoellerius, Paratrachymyrmex and Trachymyrmex species. The scapes reach or pass the posterior corner of the head by half its maximum diameter at most. Head slightly longer than broad (CI 91–96) with its maximum width close to the posterior border of head, tapering gradually from point of broadest width to mandibular insertion. Posterior margin moderately concave. Both preocular and frontal carinae long and subparallel, reaching back towards the posterior margin of head, forming well-developed antennal scrobes. In full face view, frontal lobes broad, rounded, describing a half circle. Anterolateral promesonotal teeth short, thin, in dorsal view sharply pointed, directed anterolaterally and upwards. Bases of median pronotal teeth fused, but the peaks of each tooth still distinguishable. Propodeal teeth pointed, almost twice as long as the distance between their bases. Dorsal body surface strongly tuberculate, tuberculi well developed, on first gastric tergite, sometimes connected through ridges. Tuberculi bearing long, dark, strongly recurved setae. Side of mesosoma less tuberculate, tuberculi smaller. Color is variable from yellowish brown to medium reddish brown.

Queen

Diagnosis from Rabeling et al. (2007): HL 1.1–1.2, HW 1.1–1.2, CI 100, SL 0.85–1.0, SI 71–87, ML 1.7–1.8. As in the worker diagnosis, except for case-specific structures of the mesosoma related to wing-bearing. Dorsoventral pronotal teeth pointed, broadly triangular in dorsal view; ventrolateral pronotal teeth small, lobelike. Mesoscutum with moderately abundant, short, coarse, longitudinal rugulae and abundant small tuberculi, each bearing a stiff, more or less recurved suberect or decumbent seta. Rear border of scutellum projecting posteriorly as two lobelike teeth. First gastric tergite covered with small tubercles interconnected by a network of fine rugulae forming an almost geometric pattern; each tubercle bearing a stiff, recurved, decumbent setae.

Male

Diagnosis from Rabeling et al. (2007): HL 0.7–0.75, HW 0.6, CI 80–86, SL 0.7–0.75, SI 117–125, ML 1.5–1.6. A distinctive male easily recognized by the general lack of tuberculi on all body surfaces. In addition, the rear border of the antennal scrobe is poorly defined or absent. Dorsoventral pronotal teeth small, triangular, usually sharply pointed; ventrolateral pronotal teeth absent. Mesoscutum sparsely to moderately longitudinally rugulose, interrugal spaces finely granulate. In dorsal view, rear border of scutellum forming two triangular teeth that project posteriorly. First gastric tergite finely granulate with scattered punctures bearing fine, appressed recurved setae.

Type Material

Marfa, Presidio County; Fort Stockton, Pecos County; Del Rio and Langtry, Valverde County; Marble Falls, Burnet County; Austin, Travis County; Texas, U.S.A. Syntype workers and queens American Museum of Natural History, Museum of Comparative Zoology, National Museum of Natural History. Examined (Rabeling et al. 2007).

Etymology

The epithet for M. turrifex is derived from its characteristic turretlike nest entrances, which are built from soil particles and leaf litter debris. (Rabeling et al. 2007).

References

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

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  • Dattilo W. et al. 2019. MEXICO ANTS: incidence and abundance along the Nearctic-Neotropical interface. Ecology https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2944
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  • Flores-Maldonado K. Y., S. A. Phillips, and G. Sanchez-Ramos. 1999. The myrmecofauna (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) along an altitudinal gradient in the Sierra Madre Oriental of Northeastern Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist 44(4): 457-461.
  • Flores-Maldonado, K. Y., S. A. Phillips-Jr, and G. Sanchez-Ramos. 1999. The myrmecofauna (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) along an altitudinal gradient in the Sierra Madre Oriental of Northeastern Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist 44: 457-461.
  • Gans M. J., J. R. Arnold, A. Cohuo, L. Castro, D. Lam, and C. Wiley. 2016. Survey of ant species in Rockwall County, Texas. Southwestern Entomologist 41(2): 373-378.
  • Klingenberg, C. and C.R.F. Brandao. 2005. The type specimens of fungus growing ants, Attini (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Myrmicinae) deposited in the Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil. Papeis Avulsos de Zoologia 45(4):41-50
  • LeBrun E. G., R. M. Plowes, and L. E. Gilbert. 2015. Imported fire ants near the edge of their range: disturbance and moisture determine prevalence and impact of an invasive social insect. Journal of Animal Ecology,81: 884–895.
  • McDonald D. L., D. R. Hoffpauir, and J. L. Cook. 2016. Survey yields seven new Texas county records and documents further spread of Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Southwestern Entomologist, 41(4): 913-920.
  • Moody J. V., and O. F. Francke. 1982. The Ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) of Western Texas Part 1: Subfamily Myrmicinae. Graduate Studies Texas Tech University 27: 80 pp.
  • Morrison, L.W. 2002. Long-Term Impacts of an Arthropod-Community Invasion by the Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta. Ecology 83(8):2337-2345
  • O'Keefe S. T., J. L. Cook, T. Dudek, D. F. Wunneburger, M. D. Guzman, R. N. Coulson, and S. B. Vinson. 2000. The Distribution of Texas Ants. The Southwestern Entomologist 22: 1-92.
  • Rabeling C., S. P. Cover, R. A. Johnson, and U. G. Mueller. 2007. A review of the North American species of the fungus-gardening ant genus Trachymyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 1664: 1-53
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  • Seal J. N., L. Brown, C. Ontiveros, J. Thiebaud, and U. G. Mueller. 2015. Gone to Texas: phylogeography of two Trachymyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) species along the southeastern coastal plain of North America. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 114: 689–698.
  • Smith M. R. 1936. A list of the ants of Texas. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 44: 155-170.
  • Solomon S. E., C. Rabeling, J. Sosa-Calvo, C. Lopes, A. Rodrigues, H. L. Vasconcelos, M. Bacci, U. G. Mueller, and T. R. Schultz. 2019. The molecular phylogenetics of Trachymyrmex Forel ants and their fungal cultivars provide insights into the origin and coevolutionary history of ‘higher-attine’ ant agriculture. Systematic Entomology 44: 939–956.
  • Van Pelt, A. 1983. Ants of the Chisos Mountains, Texas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) . Southwestern Naturalist 28:137-142.
  • Vasquez-Bolanos M. 2011. Checklist of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from Mexico. Dugesiana 18(1): 95-133.
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  • Vásquez-Bolaños M. 2011. Lista de especies de hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) para México. Dugesiana 18: 95-133
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  • Wheeler W. M. 1907. The fungus-growing ants of North America. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 23: 669-807.
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