Sunday, 4 January 2009

New year, new home, new job, new species

Apologies for the lack of recent posts. I moved at the end of November to start a new job in Talgarth, Wales. Following my move it took my ISP a whole month to set up my connection here, with a lot of extended phone calls and a rather long and comprehensive written complaint from me to get them to sort it out as quick as they did. Needless to say I am not best pleased with the company.

One rather important event that took place over the last month was that my recent paper was published, describing a new species, Monomorium subcomae. It may not be much, but it is my first new species. (I don't have the time or resources to conduct large scale taxonomic reviews. At the time I did the M. subcomae work I was working off of a table in my kitchen - at least now I have a dedicated office/lab.)

The type material for M. subcomae was collected in Kuwait by David M. King, though Mostafa Sharaf has already informed me that he has the species from Egypt. The specimens gradually found their way to me through Brian Taylor, along with numerous other tubes from around the Mediterranean.

M. subcomae is one of many species in the Middle East and North Africa that are related to Monomorium areniphilum, all of which have a propodeum that it on a distinctly lower plane than the promesonotum, as well as large eyes and distinctive striate sculpture on the head. Not many of the areniphilum-complex are bicoloured, so this makes M. subcomae relatively easy to identify. The key in Collingwood & Agosti (1996) can be easily adapted to include M. subcomae as follows:

17Eyes large, greater than 0.25 times HW 17a
 Eyes small, 0.25 times HW or less 18
17aVentral surface of head with numerous long setae subcomae
 Ventral surface of head glabrous venustum

As yet nothing is known about the ecology of M. subcomae. Perhaps over time people like Mostafa will be able to fill in some of the details.

Citation and abstract: Lush, M. J. 2008. A new species of Monomorium (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from Kuwait. Zoology in the Middle East 45: 67-72.