Monday, December 10, 2007 - 8:29 AM

Phylogeny and biogeography of the Australasian spider ants, genus Leptomyrmex

Andrea Lucky,, UC Davis, Entomology, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA

Spider ants of the genus Leptomyrmex are distinctive inhabitants of the eastern Australian rain forests. Although they constitute compelling subjects for ecological and evolutionary studies owing to their restricted range and unique biology, they have historically been unavailable due to their unruly taxonomy. In order to clarify species relationships within the genus and test morphologically based taxonomic hypotheses, a four-gene phylogeny was reconstructed using thirty-three ingroup and three outgroup taxa. Ribosomal (28S) and nuclear protein-coding genes (LW rh, Wg, ArgK) were selected to assess evolutionary history at multiple levels. Presented here is a discussion of interspecific relationships within Leptomyrmex based on the current phylogeny, including the status of several undescribed 'micro'-Leptomyrmex, whose relationship to other taxa in the genus is uncertain. Also addressed are biogeographical patterns within this genus, which are expected to be widely representative of other Australian rainforest endemics.

Species 1: Hymenoptera Formicidae Leptomyrmex (spider ants)