Monday, 19 November 2007

Slightly confused Monomorium egens

This specimen has proved difficult to identify, but I'm now pretty certain that I've got it right. It keys out pretty clearly as Monomorium egens using Bolton (1987), but is generally much more slender than the species that Bolton describes and has much longer scapes (SI 108).

Because it doesn't fit perfectly I've been puzzling over it for the past couple days. The resolution came when I translated Santschi's (1926) description of M. longiusculum from the French. This describes a slender species with scapes long enough to reach the posterior margin of the head (I've included my rough translation of Santschi's description below). This means that my specimen has slightly longer antennal scapes and may be more slender, but is probably close enough.

Bolton synonomised M. longiusculum with M. egens. What is strange is that he doesn't mention this level of variety despite having examined the type material for M. longiusculum, though he does confess not to be convinced that M. egens is a single species. Having now compared my specimens with those checked by Bolton in the Natural History Museum, London, I can understand why he decided to synonymise them, as there is no obvious difference other than the shape.

This species is another forest species from Abuko National Park in The Gambia, where it was collected from a tree. Bolton states that M. egens nests in rotten wood in the soil or in fallen trunks and forages in the wood and leaf litter. This seems to make finding it part way up a living tree trunk quite usual.

M. egens has been found in West Africa from Angola to Guinea, putting this specimen at the extreme northern edge of its known range.

The following is my translation (with a little help from Brian Taylor) of the type description for M. longiusculum from the French.

Monomoriumlongiusculum Santschi 1926

Worker. Length: 2.1 mm. Body brown, gaster brown-black. Appendages yellowish-brown. Funiculus yellowish. Smooth, shining. Slightly pilous. Pubescence suberect and more abundant on the scapes, adpressed and sparse on the legs.

Head approximately a quarter longer than broad, rather convex at the sides, the posterior margin straight with the angles rounded. Eyes two thirds as large as the space which separates them from the anterior margin of the head and placed between the middle and a third back from the anterior margin. Carina on the clypeus marked, not very divergent and little or not projecting at the anterior margin. Mandibles with 4 teeth. The scape reaches the posterior margin of the head. Articles 2 to 9 of the funiculus about as thick as long. Pronotum 'sub-shouldered', without a promesonotal suture and with the mesonotum in profile forming a regular and rather low convexity from the anterior to the metanotal groove. Propodeum longer than two thirds of the promesonotum and low, also convex, the sloping face not very distinct from the declivitous one; convex from one side to the other and narrow, width about half its length. Peduncle of the petiole as long as half of the base of the node; node triangular in profile and longer than high, not convex ventrally. Postpetiole a little shorter and lower than the petiole, roughly as high as long and rounded at the dorsally, as broad as long and a little broader than the petiole.

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