Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Australian ant collections

This is the most incomplete of the lists I'm going to present. There are two main reasons for this: the taxonomy of the Australian ant fauna is incredibly difficult, making identification hard, and I was interrupted by my work on the Gambian fauna. Eventually I will get back to these collections.

They are the result of my attendance on the Ant Course 2006, plus an extra week that I stayed. This was held at James Cook University (JCU) Cairns Campus. If you are interested in ants then I can't recommend the Ant Course strongly enough.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Australian ant fauna is quite special. Groups that are rare elsewhere, such as Iridomyrmex and Polyrhachis have diversified into many different forms. Others, such as Leptomyrmex, Turneria, Melophorus and the famous bulldog ants Myrmecia are limited to the Australasian region. I should also make mention of possibly the most famous Australian ant, Nothomyrmecia macrops.

There is a lot of work still to be done on these specimens. Iridomyrmex, Camponotus, Polyrhachis, Crematogaster and Pheidole are all common and diverse in Australia, so I collected a lot of different species. A key now exists for Camponotus, but I've only just started trying to sort through all the specimens I have. Iridomyrmex in particular is well-nigh impossible, as there are many species that differ very little. Many of the smaller groups also lack keys, so identification is not easy.

For further coverage check Australian Ants Online.

I should say that the specimens actually belong to JCU and that I have them as part of a loan to Cardiff Museum. Once I've finished with them they will go to Cardiff or back to JCU.

          varians subsp. ruficeps
          melanocephalum 1
          bidentata 2
          pictus subsp. bimaculatus
          nuda 3
          overbecki 4
          pharaonis 5
          wroughtoni sp. 1
          wroughtoni sp. 26
          lanuginosum 3
          simillimum 3
          auropunctata 7

1 Introduced and collected in many situations, from wash-blocks to rainforest.
2 I only collected one specimen of this rarity, which is usually found in the canopy. I found it on my clothes in the room I was staying in at (JCU) Cairns Campus. I suspect that someone had shaken the tree it was on as I was beneath.
3 Introduced.
4 A bit of a rarity, especially in Queensland, where it is otherwise unknown (Shattuck & Barnett, 2007).
5 Introduced, found once crawling across the desk in the room I was staying in at JCU.
6 Considered to be rare, but I found it frequently enough in the rainforest that by the time I left I could recognise it on sight. Following a chat with Barry Bolton (who last reviewed the genus), I feel confident in saying that what I have belongs to two species.
7 Introduced around Cairns and apparently presenting quite a serious threat. Found abundantly in one place near JCU.

No comments: