Saturday, 26 January 2008

Camponotus olivieri

Camponotus olivieri is a widespread species in Africa, ranging from South Africa north to Sudan and west to Ghana. However, it is made up of a great many subspecies that probably deserve species status, so the situation may be rather more complicated than it seems at first.

Two subspecies of C. olivieri were collected in The Gambia: lemma and delagoensis. They differ quite markedly in pubescence and also, to a lesser extent, morphology. What I think provides some evidence that they deserve separate status is that they were both found at one site.

C. olivieri subsp. lemma was found in two locations: Abuko National Park, Lamin and Bijilo Forest Park, Kololi. In both cases it was found only on the ground. It can be distinguished from other species of C. olivieri by the rust colour at the base of the antennal scapes and the gaster, which is uniformly shiny, sparsely pubescent but still more densely pubescent than the mesosoma and has erect hairs that are thicker than the pubescence.

C. olivieri subsp. delagoensis was found at Abuko National Park, on a tree. It is similar to subsp. lemma, but has denser, yellow pubescence, especially on the gaster.

Both ants have been recorded only rarely, possibly due to the fact that they are regarded as subspecies and so have been more frequently recorded at species level. C. olivieri subsp. lemma had been recorded in Angola, Tanzania and former Zaire. C. olivieri subsp. delagoensis was only known from the type location at Delagoa Bay in Mozambique. This makes these Gambian records an extension of the known range of the species and both subspecies, especially large in the case of subsp. delagoensis.

These have both been compared with the type specimens from the Muséum d'histoire naturelle, Genève and the Naturhistorisches Museum Basel. This allowed me to confirm C. olivieri subsp. delagoenisis.

The syntypes of C. olivieri subsp. lemma are rather variably hairy, so much so that I wondered if Forel had mounted specimens from different colonies on the same pins. The main difference between these and my specimens was that most of the types were much less hairy, though one was similar to mine. It could be that the specimens have lost some of their pilosity. Regardless, I feel I need to do some more work to confirm that there is nothing closer.

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