Rugitermes ursulae Casalla, Scheffrahn & Korb, 2021

Casalla, Robin, Scheffrahn, Rudolf H. & Korb, Judith, 2021, Rugitermes ursulae (Isoptera, Kalotermitidae), a new drywood termite from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, ZooKeys 1057, pp. 23-36 : 23

publication ID

publication LSID

persistent identifier

taxon LSID

treatment provided by

ZooKeys by Pensoft

scientific name

Rugitermes ursulae Casalla, Scheffrahn & Korb

sp. nov.

Rugitermes ursulae Casalla, Scheffrahn & Korb sp. nov.

Figs 2 View Figure 2 , 3 View Figure 3

Material examined.

Holotype soldier. Colombia: Colosó, Sucre (9.5435, -75.34884), 400 meters a.s.l., 11.JUL.2014, R. Casalla, ADD-2014-10A GoogleMaps . Paratypes. One additional soldier, 12 pseudergates, a pair of reproductive, same colony sample as holotype ADD-2014-10 B. Voucher specimen are held at the Universidad del Norte , Colombia . Holotype soldier (ADD-2014-10A) and one reproductive paratype of Rugitermes ursulae sp. nov. (ADD-2014-10B-1) will be deposited at the Natural History Museum of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute of Bogotá (MIAvH, Colombia) and a paratype soldier (ADD-2014-10B-2) and reproductive (ADD-2014-10B-3) at the collection of the American Museum of Natural History , New York. (AMNH, USA). Pseudergates ('false workers’) of R. ursulae will be part of the collection of termites of the Department of Chemistry and Biology at the University del Norte .


The soldier of R. ursulae sp. nov. is the smallest of all congeneric soldiers (Fig. 2 View Figure 2 ). The size of the head is remarkably small (Tables 1 View Table 1 , 2 View Table 2 ). The pronotum width is almost twice its length, for both imago and soldier. Antennal sockets are pronounced, protruded, and rectangular in the soldier. The soldier of R. ursulae sp. nov. can be distinguished by its small subflangular elevation.

The imago of R. ursulae sp. nov. is also the smallest of all Rugitermes species (Fig. 3 View Figure 3 ; Tables 1 View Table 1 , 3 View Table 3 ). The imago of R. ursulae sp. nov. has disproportionally large eyes and ocelli in relation to head dimensions, when compared with another small Rugitermes species, R. flavicinctus , which is known from Guyana (Table 1 View Table 1 ; Fig. 3 View Figure 3 ). Rugitermes ursulae sp. nov. is the only Rugitermes imago with a dark-castaneous head capsule and pale-yellow coloration of the pronotum.

Type locality.

"Los primates" Colosó, Sucre, Colombia (Fig. 1 View Figure 1 , Suppl. material 2: Fig. S1)


Soldier (Fig. 2 View Figure 2 , Table 2 View Table 2 ). Head capsule, in dorsal view, light yellowish orange. Occiput and posterior vertex grading from pale orange to yellow orange towards frons. Postmentum concolorous with head capsule; narrowest at posterior third (Fig. 2C View Figure 2 ). Pronotum pale yellow, nearly transparent toward lateral margins. Mandibles dark reddish brown near base, grading to black from mid-length to tips. Third antennal article clavate, more pigmented than other articles; article formula 2<3>4=5. Pronotum twice as wide as long, anterior margin shallowly concave, anterolateral corners evenly rounded with a few bristles and scattered setae in posterolateral margins. Postmentum concolorous with head capsule; narrowest at posterior third (Fig. 2C View Figure 2 ). Eye spots barely discernable, forming pale blotches behind antennal carinae. In dorsal view, head capsule rectangular with lateral margins parallel. Frons angled ca 30° below plane of vertex (Fig. 2B View Figure 2 ); frons weakly concave with undulating rugosity in middle extending to postclypeus (Fig. 2E View Figure 2 ). In frontal view, shallow elevations on each side of frontal margin; about a dozen medium to long setae above and lateral to each elevation (Fig. 2D View Figure 2 ). Frontolateral ridges about 85° in dorsal view; corners evenly rounded (Fig. 2E View Figure 2 ). Antennal carinae with projecting dorsal and posterior margins not exceeding head width; anterior margins below frontolateral ridges. Mandibles with weak basal humps; outer margins of blades straight from humps to distal fourth. First marginal tooth of left mandible three-fourths from tip; directed forward. First marginal tooth of right mandible at basal third.

Imago (Fig. 3 View Figure 3 , Table 3 View Table 3 ). Head capsule dark castaneous; pronotum pale yellowish, contrasting sharply with head capsule. Eyes small, ellipsoid. Ocellus hyaline, nearly circular, separated from eye by one-third its diameter. Antennae articles 2-4 pale yellow; first darker, fifth and beyond progressively darker. Antennae with at least 10 articles (broken), formula 1>2=3>4. Head vertex and frons with few short setae. Pronotum twice as wide as long. Pronotum wider than head capsule; anterior margin straight, posterolateral corners evenly rounded with scattered bristles, posterior margin narrowly concave. Legs light brown grading to pale yellow toward tibia. Arolium present.

Distribution and biological observations.

'Los Primates’ is located in the mountains of the municipality of Colosó, Sucre. It is a regional forest reserve created in 1983, containing primary and secondary tropical dry forest. The mean annual temperature is 26.7 °C (min: 25.8 °C; max: 27.8 °C) with an annual precipitation of around 1337 mm (INDERENA, 1983; Hijmans et al. 2005). The specimens of Rugitermes ursulae sp. nov. were collected from a small, dry branch (ca 12 mm in diameter) of a leafless bush (Suppl. material 2: Fig. S1).


“Ursulae” derived from a diminutive of the Latin ursa, which means "little bear", in line with the small size of the species. Ursula is also the name of José Arcadio Buendía’s wife in the novel "One hundred years of solitude" written by Gabriel García Márquez and represents an apology/symbolism for the spiritual engine, entrepreneurship, and hard and silent work of many women around the world.

Molecular analysis of the COII fragment.

The topology and splits inferred from the multiple sequence alignment of the COII fragment for all Kalotermitidae genera available in NCBI, and including our new species, revealed a COIIML gene tree that clearly separated R. ursulae sp. nov. from the two other Rugitermes species with maximal BS support. Furthermore, it suggests that the genus Rugitermes is monophyletic (maximal BS support) and that it is the sister taxon of Postelectrotermes , however support values for the latter are low (19% BS; Fig. 4 View Figure 4 ).

The p -distance analyses revealed that the barcode sequences most similar to R. ursulae (accession number: MW600961) belonged to Rugitermes sp. A TB-2014 (accession number: KP026284.1) and Rugitermes ADD 2015-29 (accession number: MW600962); they shared 87% and 86% sequence similarity (p -distance), respectively (Suppl. material 1: Table S2).