Camponotus aureopilus,

Shattuck, S. O., 2005, Review of the Camponotus aureopilus species-group (Hymenoptera, Formicidae), including a second Camponotus with a metapleural gland., Zootaxa 903, pp. 1-20: 1-2

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Camponotus aureopilus


[[ Camponotus aureopilus  HNS  species-group ]]

Camponotus  HNS  is the world's largest and most widespread ant genus. It contains over 1500 described species and subspecies (Bolton 1995) and occurs in essentially all terrestrial habitats where ants are found. Individual species range in size from moderately small to large, and from highly abundant and visible to rare and cryptic. The genus is certainly one of nature's great success stories.

The species examined here form a small group of distinctive species limited to Papua New Guinea and neighboring Queensland, Australia. They share a number of characters (see below) suggesting a close relationship, and one of them ( C. thadeus  HNS  , new species) is only the second species in the genus with a metapleural gland. This gland, one of the autapomorphies uniting the family Formicidae, has been lost in a handful of genera (Bolton 2003) including all but two known species of Camponotus  HNS  ( C. gigas  HNS  and C. thadeus  HNS  ). While C. gigas  HNS  is morphologically unusual for the genus (and is currently placed in the monotypic subgenus Dinomyrmex  HNS  (Bolton 1995)), C. thadeus  HNS  is very similar to the other species considered here, suggesting an independent reversal in the loss of this gland. Clearly a detailed phylogenetic analysis will be required to address this hypothesis critically, an undertaking well outside the current study.

These appear to be rare ants with most species known from very limited material or occurring in very limited geographic areas (in the case of C. thadeus  HNS  ). This currently restricts our ability to assess intraspecific variation as would be possible if additional material were available. However, the characters used in this study are based on those found to be useful in recognizing species of this genus occurring in Australia where extensive collections have been made and intraspecific versus interspecific variation can be assessed in detail (for example, Shattuck and McArthur 2002). A conservative approach has also been taken, with "solid" differences needed for species recognition. It is hoped that these factors will combine to provide a solid foundation for the taxonomy of these ants. Having said that, it is extremely likely that this study represents only a small fraction of the taxa occurring in this species-group and additional collecting in Papua New Guinea and eastern Indonesia will undoubtedly reveal many more species.