Melophorus biroi

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Melophorus biroi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Melophorini
Genus: Melophorus
Species group: biroi
Species complex: biroi
Species: M. biroi
Binomial name
Melophorus biroi
Forel, 1907

Melophorus biroi syntype (marius) side MHNG.jpg

Melophorus biroi syntype (marius) top MHNG.jpg

Specimen labels

Synonyms
Evolutionary Relationships
Melophorus


Melophorus ludius species group



Melophorus potteri species group





Melophorus aeneovirens species group




Melophorus biroi species group (biroi species complex)




Melophorus biroi species group (wheeleri species complex)




Melophorus biroi species group (brevignathus species complex)



Melophorus biroi species group (fieldi species complex)







Based on Heterick et al., 2017. Only selected species groups/complexes are included.


Melophorus biroi is the most abundant and widespread of all the small Melophorus species. The ant is a ground forager and almost certainly a generalist in its habits.

Identification

Heterick et al. (2017) - Melophorus biroi can be placed in the Melophoprus biroi species-group on the basis of characters of the clypeus, propodeum, mandible and palps. The species is placed in the Melophoprus biroi species-complex on the basis of a further suite of characters (viz, metatibia of major worker with only one preapical spur [except rarely in the mjobergi clade]; clypeal psammophore placed anteriorly at or just above anterior margin of clypeus in the minor worker and often in the major worker; head dorsoventrally compressed to varying degrees in the minor worker of most species with the eyes placed high on the sides; compact legs, and small body size [(excluding mjobergi clade) HW of smallest minor 0.36 mm, average HW of smallest minors 0.46 mm; HW of largest known major 1.29 mm, average HW of largest majors (where known) 1.05 mm]). Melophorus biroi is very similar to several other small or very small Melophorus. The minor worker can be distinguished from similar forms by its almost invariably glabrous mesosoma, the lack of erect setae, especially marginal setae, on the gaster, the weakly impressed metanotal groove, the truncate propodeum, the thin, widened petiolar node and the lack of heavy sculpture on the mesopleuron. Since the major worker of many M. biroi complex species is not known, the M. biroi major worker cannot be diagnosed with high definition, and is best identified from nest series in which minor workers are also included. However, this subcaste has a weakly convex pronotum and mesonotum and a weakly ot moderately impressed metanotal groove enabling it to be separated from the very similar Melophorus castanopus (flattened pronotum and mesonotum) and Melophorus dicyrtos (strongly convex pronotum and mesonotum and deeply impressed metanotal groove), and the posterior clypeal margin is arched. The anterior clypeal margin often has a small dimple (as in many members of the Melophoprus fieldi complex). Melophorus biroi shows a lot of morphological variation, and there is substantial molecular evidence that this is a species complex of at least several species. Further investigation into Melophorus biroi is needed.

The glabrous mesosoma in the minor worker, lack of erect non-marginal setae on the first gastral tergite and the straight appearance of the mesosoma in profile differentiate this ant from others in its clade. The taxon exhibits a variety of colours and morphologies: most southwestern populations have tawny orange foreparts and a dark gaster, while populations in the northern part of the Swan Coastal plain are uniformly large and dark. Melophorus biroi specimens in northern Australian and in arid parts may be rather rugose and brownish in colour, often with darker heads and gasters, while M. biroi from the eastern NSW tend to be dark coloured, quite gracile, and with longer heads (although not as long or compressed as seen in Melophorus longiceps).

Heterick et al. (2017), as Melophorus castanopus - Melophorus castanopus can be placed in the Melophoprus biroi species-group on the basis of characters of the clypeus, propodeum, mandible and palps. The species is placed in the Melophoprus biroi species-complex on the basis of a further suite of characters (viz, metatibia of major worker with only one preapical spur [except rarely in the mjobergi clade]; clypeal psammophore placed anteriorly at or just above anterior margin of clypeus in the minor worker and often in the major worker; head dorsoventrally compressed to varying degrees in the minor worker of most species with the eyes placed high on the sides; compact legs, and small body size [[(excluding mjobergi clade) HW of smallest minor 0.36 mm, average HW of smallest minors 0.46 mm; HW of largest known major 1.29 mm, average HW of largest majors (where known) 1.05 mm]). Melophorus castanopus can be most easily confused with Melophorus biroi but the appearance of the major and minor workers, seen in profile, is slightly more flattened than the corresponding major and minor workers of the latter species, and the minor worker has erect setae on first gastral tergite, including a line of marginal setae. The minor worker mesosoma also possesses a couple to a few, usually stout erect setae (several specimens may need to be seen because of abrasion). Such setae are abundant and modified in a few isolated populations.

The ant is very similar to Melophorus biroi, but minor workers rarely have a glabrous mesosoma, unlike M. biroi, and they always have erect setae on the margin of the first gastral tergite (lacking in M. biroi minor workers). Major workers are more difficult to distinguish, but majors for M. castanopus have a gently convex pronotum (mostly flattened in M. biroi major workers).

Distribution

Found in all mainland Australian states and in Tasmania (where it is one of a small handful of species of this heat-loving genus to have been recorded).


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -16.3895° to -43°.

     
North
Temperate
North
Subtropical
Tropical South
Subtropical
South
Temperate

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps

AntMapLegend.png

Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Habitat

Known habitats include Eucalyptus woodland, inland dunes, ‘dry sclerophyll’, ‘coastal scrub’, sandstone scrub, mallee, mallee heath, burned mallee, grazed eucalyptus dieback area, box-pine scrub, twig litter, scattered shrubs and spinifex over red sand, relict Kwongan bushland, mulga bushland, remnant brigalow, closed forest, semi-arid red clay soil, white sand over leaves, and paddock. This species also occurs in suburban areas, particularly those with some remnant vegetation.

Biology

Castes

Nomenclature

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

  • biroi. Melophorus biroi Forel, 1907a: 29 (s.) AUSTRALIA.
    • Combination in M. (Erimelophorus): Wheeler, W.M. 1935c: 71.
    • Status as species: Emery, 1925b: 12; Taylor & Brown, 1985: 123; Bolton, 1995b: 250; Heterick, et al. 2017: 161 (redescription).
    • Senior synonym of marius, propinqua: Heterick, et al. 2017: 162.
  • castanopus. Melophorus castanopus Heterick, Castalanelli & Shattuck, 2017: 168, fig. 32 (w.q.) AUSTRALIA.
    • Junior synonym of biroi: Heterick, 2021: 18.

Taxonomic Notes

Heterick (2021): Syntype specimen code ANT44020 (Melophorus biroi) illustrated on AntWeb and regarded by Heterick et al. (2017) as a senior synonym of Melophorus marius and M. fieldi propinqua is identical with what is ‘castanopus’ in Heterick et al. (2017). The former names were synonymised under Melophorus biroi based on a less detailed image of the same ant, and the new evidence reveals ‘marius’ and ‘fieldi propinqua’ are not in fact conspecific with ‘biroi’. Melophorus biroi is here treated as a senior synonym of M. castanopus, and M. marius is given revived status as a senior synonym of M. fieldi propinqua. ‘Melophorus marius’ needs to be revisited as the molecular data indicate a species complex still exists under this name.

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

Description

Worker

(n = 8): CI 92–113; EI 22–37; EL 0.18–0.24; HL 0.53–0.97; HW 0.49–1.10; ML 0.69–1.24; MTL 0.36–0.66; PpH 0.09–0.12; PpL 0.29–0.51; SI 69–105; SL 0.51–0.76.

Minor. Head. Head square, or approximately oval with straight sides; posterior margin of head planar to strongly convex; frons shining with superficial shagreenation or microreticulation only; frons consisting exclusively or almost exclusively of well-spaced, appressed setae only (small, erect setae, if present, usually confined to ocular triangle or posterior margin of head). Eye moderate (eye length 0.20–0.49 length of side of head capsule); in profile, eye set at about midpoint of head capsule; in profile, eye set around midline of head capsule; eyes elliptical or slightly reniform. In full-face view, frontal carinae straight or weakly convex; frontal lobes straight in front of antennal insertion. Anteromedial clypeal margin broadly and evenly convex; clypeal psammophore set at or just above anterior clypeal margin; palp formula 6,4. Five mandibular teeth in minor worker; mandibles triangular, weakly incurved; third mandibular tooth distinctly shorter than apical tooth and teeth numbers two and four; masticatory margin of mandibles approximately vertical or weakly oblique. Mesosoma. Integument of pronotum, mesonotum and mesopleuron with weak to moderate sheen and superficial microreticulation (more pronounced on mesopleuron); anterior mesosoma in profile broadly convex, or smoothly rounded anteriad, thereafter pronotum and whole of mesonotum flattened and on same plane as propodeum, or weakly elevated anteriad, thereafter gently sinuate, pronotum and mesonotum on same plane; erect pronotal setae absent; in profile, metanotal groove shallow, broadly V or U-shaped, or a weak or vestigial furrow; propodeum shining and microreticulate; propodeum angulate, propodeal angle blunt; length ratio of propodeal dorsum to its declivity between 1:1 and 1:2; erect propodeal setae always absent; appressed propodeal setulae short, separated by more than own length and inconspicuous; propodeal spiracle situated on or beside declivitous face of propodeum, and longer (length ≥ 0.50 × height of propodeum). Petiole. In profile, petiolar node squamiform; in fullface view, shape of petiolar node uniformly rounded; node shining and smooth with vestigial sculpture. Gaster. Gaster shining with superficial microreticulation; pilosity of first gastral tergite consisting of well-spaced short, inconspicuous, appressed setae only, erect setae always absent. General characters. Colour variable, often orange-and-brown or concolorous brown; if foreparts light-coloured, gaster always brown to black.

Major. Head square; posterior margin of head weakly concave; cuticle of frons shining and smooth except for piliferous pits and a few striolae around antennal insertions and frontal carinae; pilosity of frons a mixture of a few well-spaced, erect setae interspersed with appressed setae only. Eye small (eye length less than 0.2 × length of head capsule); in full-face view, eyes set above midpoint of head capsule; in profile, eye set anteriad of midline of head capsule; eyes elliptical. In full-face view, frontal carinae concave; frontal lobes straight in front of antennal insertion. Anterior clypeal margin broadly and evenly convex; clypeal psammophore set at or just above anterior clypeal margin; palp formula 6,4. Five mandibular teeth in major worker; mandibles triangular, weakly incurved; third mandibular tooth distinctly shorter than apical tooth and teeth numbers two and 4; masticatory margin of mandibles approximately aligned vertically or weakly oblique. Mesosoma. Integument of pronotum, mesonotum and mesopleuron with weak to moderate sheen, shagreenate on pronotum and dorsum of mesonotum, otherwise microreticulate; anterior mesosoma in profile broadly convex, or pronotum smoothly rounded anteriad and flattened posteriad, mesonotum narrowly convex; erect pronotal setae short and unmodified, or weakly expanded distally; in profile, metanotal groove shallow, broadly V- or U-shaped; propodeum shining and finely striolate and microreticulate; propodeum smoothly rounded or with indistinct angle, or angulate, propodeal angle blunt; length ratio of propodeal dorsum to its declivity greater than 1:2; erect propodeal setae absent; appressed propodeal setae sparse or absent, if present then not regularly spaced; propodeal spiracle situated on or beside declivitous face of propodeum, and shorter (length less than 0.50 × height of propodeum). Petiole. In profile, petiolar node squamiform; in full-face view, shape of petiolar node uniformly rounded, or square with rounded angles; node shining and smooth with vestigial microreticulation anteriad. Gaster. Gaster shining, shagreenate (‘LP record’ appearance); pilosity of first gastral tergite consisting of short, bristly, erect setae over well-spaced, short, appressed setae. General characters. Colour mostly orange with brown gaster, head may be brown with yellow pronotum and mesonotum and brown propodeum and metasoma, or head and gaster may be brown with tan mesosoma.

Melophorus castanopus

(n = 8): CI 93–116; EI 20–29; EL 0.14–0.25; HL 0.51–0.11; HW 0.47–1.29; ML 0.69–1.50; MTL 0.36–0.77; PpH 0.07–0.16; PpL 0.28–0.67; SI 75–124; SL 0.58–0.96.

Minor. Head. Head square; posterior margin of head planar or weakly convex; frons shining with superficial shagreenation or microreticulation only; pilosity of frons a mixture of a few well-spaced, erect setae interspersed with appressed setae only. Eye moderate (eye length 0.20–0.49 length of side of head capsule); in full-face view, eye set at about midpoint of head capsule; in profile, eye set anteriad of head capsule; eyes elliptical or slightly reniform. In full-face view, frontal carinae straight or weakly convex; frontal lobes straight in front of antennal insertion. Anteromedial clypeal margin broadly and evenly convex; clypeal psammophore set at or just above anterior clypeal margin; palp formula 6,4. Five mandibular teeth in minor worker; mandibles triangular, weakly incurved; third mandibular tooth distinctly shorter than apical tooth and teeth numbers two and four; masticatory margin of mandibles approximately vertical or weakly oblique. Mesosoma. Integument of pronotum, mesonotum and mesopleuron with weak to moderate sheen, shagreenate on pronotum and dorsum of mesonotum, otherwise microreticulate; anterior mesosoma in profile smoothly rounded anteriad, thereafter pronotum and whole of mesonotum flattened and on same plane as propodeum; appearance of erect pronotal setae short and unmodified, or weakly expanded distally; in profile, metanotal groove shallow, broadly V or U-shaped; propodeum shining and shagreenate; propodeum angulate, propodeal angle blunt; length ratio of propodeal dorsum to its declivity about 1:1; erect propodeal setae always absent; appressed propodeal setulae short, separated by more than own length and inconspicuous; propodeal spiracle situated on or beside declivitous face of propodeum, and longer (length ≥ 0.50 × height of propodeum). Petiole. In profile, petiolar node squamiform; in full-face view, shape of petiolar node uniformly rounded; node shining and distinctly shagreenate-microreticulate. Gaster. Gaster shining, shagreenate (‘LP record’ appearance); pilosity of first gastral tergite consisting mainly of short, appressed setae, together with a few erect and semi-erect setae. General characters. Colour of most populations concolorous light to dark brown, a few populations with orange foreparts and dark brown gasters.

Major. Head. Head square; posterior margin of head planar or weakly concave; cuticle of frons shining and smooth except for piliferous pits and a few striolae around antennal insertions and Frontal carinae; pilosity of frons a mixture of a few well-spaced, erect setae interspersed with appressed setae only. Eye moderate, (eye length 0.20–0.49 length of head capsule); in full-face view, eyes set above midpoint of head capsule; in profile, eye set anteriad of midline of head capsule; eyes elliptical. In full-face view, frontal carinae straight, divergent posteriad; frontal lobes straight in front of antennal insertion. Anterior clypeal margin broadly and evenly convex; clypeal psammophore set at or just above anterior clypeal margin; palp formula 6,4. Five mandibular teeth in major worker; mandibles triangular, weakly incurved; third mandibular tooth distinctly shorter than apical tooth and teeth numbers two and four; masticatory margin of mandibles approximately aligned vertically or weakly oblique. Mesosoma. Integument of pronotum, mesonotum and mesopleuron with weak to moderate sheen, shagreenate on pronotum and dorsum of mesonotum, otherwise microreticulate; anterior mesosoma in profile smoothly rounded anteriad, thereafter pronotum and whole of mesonotum flattened and on same plane as propodeum; erect pronotal setae short and unmodified, or weakly expanded distally; in profile, metanotal groove shallow, indicated mainly by an angle and metathoracic spiracles; propodeum matt or with a weak sheen and microreticulate; propodeum angulate, propodeal angle blunt; length ratio of propodeal dorsum to its declivity between 1:1 and 1:2; erect propodeal setae present and sparse to moderate (1-12); appressed propodeal setae short, separated by more than own length and inconspicuous; propodeal spiracle situated on or beside declivitous face of propodeum, and shorter (length less than 0.50 × height of propodeum). Petiole. In profile, petiolar node squamiform; in full-face view, shape of petiolar node uniformly rounded; node shining and distinctly microreticulate. Gaster. Gaster shining, shagreenate (‘LP record’ appearance); pilosity of first gastral tergite consisting of well-spaced, erect and semi-erect setae interspersed with regularly spaced appressed setae. General characters. Colour brownish-orange with brown gaster to concolorous chocolate.

Type Material

Heterick et al. (2017) - Holotype (probable) major worker, Mt Victoria, Blue Mountains, New South Wales (Hungarian Natural History Museum) (examined: images of HNHM specimen provided by Zoltan Vas).

  • Melophorus biroi: Syntype, Mt. Victoria, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia, museum unknown (prob. MHNG (Geneva) or HNHM (Budapest)).

Melophorus castanopus

Minor worker (middle ant) from 4 km S of Auburn, South Australia, 14 February 1974, P.J.M. Greenslade [ANIC32-900113] (Australian National Insect Collection). Paratypes: 2 minor workers on same pine and with same details as holotype (ANIC); major, media and minor worker from Bridgewater, South Australia, 23 September 1972, P.J.M. Greenslade (ANIC); major worker from Belair, South Australia, 20-23 December 1971, P.J.M. Greenslade, traps-7 (ANIC); 2 major and a minor worker from Calca, South Australia, 26 September 1957, B.B. Lowery, mallee scrub, ANIC Ants Vial 22.188 (Museum of Comparative Zoology); 3 minor workers from Harveys Return, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, 15 January 1973, P.J.M. Greenslade, (5) (MCZ); 3 major workers from Morialta Reserve, Lofty Ranges, South Australia, 8 September 1957, B.B. Lowery, 1000ft, dry sclerophyll, ANIC Ants Vial 22.197 [ANIC32-900114] (The Natural History Museum); major worker and dealate queen from Belair, South Australia, March 1971, P.J.M. Greenslade, Traps 1217 [ANIC32-900176] (South Australian Museum).

References

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Fisher J., L. Beames, B. J. Rangers, N. N. Rangers, J. Majer, and B. Heterick. 2014. Using ants to monitor changes within and surrounding the endangered Monsoon Vine Thickets of the tropical Dampier Peninsula, north Western Australia. Forest Ecology and Management 318: 78–90.
  • Forel A. 1910. Formicides australiens reçus de MM. Froggatt et Rowland Turner. Rev. Suisse Zool. 18: 1-94
  • Taylor R. W. 1987. A checklist of the ants of Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) Division of Entomology Report 41: 1-92.
  • Taylor R. W., and D. R. Brown. 1985. Formicoidea. Zoological Catalogue of Australia 2: 1-149.