Myrmecos

New Species: Ectatomma parasiticum

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Ectatomma parasiticum Feitosa & Fresneau 2008

Mexico

In today’s Zootaxa, Feitosa et al describe a workerless social parasite in the ant genus Ectatomma. Like many discoveries, this one was fortuitous. The authors were collecting nests of the common Ectatomma tuberculatum when they noticed that some nests had a number of rather small queens in them. Genetic tests revealed them to be distinct.

Ectatomma parasiticum is a social parasite, using the labor of the host ants to raise more parasites. Although a similarly parasitic lifestyle is known to occur in other ant subfamilies, this is the first recorded case within Ectatommines.

What I’d like to know is if the evolution of E. parasiticum is a case of intra-specific parasitism that gave rise to speciation. The parasite and the host are similar enough to suggest it. Testing that hypothesis would be straightforward with a bit of genetic data collected across the range of both species. If true, E. parasiticum sequences should be nested within a larger group of E. tuberculatum sequences.

source: Feitosa et al. 2008. A new social parasite in the ant genus Ectatomma F. Smith (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Ectatomminae). Zootaxa 1713: 47-52.