Ants in Australia's monsoonal tropics: CO1 barcoding reveals extensive unrecognised diversity

Stefanie K. Oberprieler, Alan N. Andersen, Craig C. Moritz

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    The Australian monsoonal tropics (AMT) is a significant biodiversity hotspot, and recent genetic studies of several vertebrate groups have revealed its level of diversity is far higher than previously thought. However, the extent to which this applies to the AMT's insect fauna, which represents most AMT faunal species, remains unknown. Here we examine the extent of unrecognised diversity in the AMT's ecologically dominant insect group, ants. We used CO1 barcoding in combination with morphological variation and geographic distribution to explore diversity within seven taxa currently recognised as single species occurring throughout the AMT: one species of Papyrius Shattuck 1992, one of Iridomyrmex Mayr 1862, two from the Cardiocondyla nuda (Mayr 1866) group, and three from the Camponotus novaehollandiae (Mayr 1870) group. We found six of the seven target species each to represent several species, based on a combination of CO1 divergence (ranging up to 13%), morphological differentiation and geographic distribution. Our findings indicate that the levels of diversity and endemism of the AMT ant fauna are far higher than currently realised. We urge the need for further research in insect biodiversity in the AMT, both for a better understanding of the evolution of its remarkable biota, and as a basis for improved conservation planning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number36
    Pages (from-to)1-24
    Number of pages24
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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