Diversity and distribution of the dominant ant genus anonychomyrma (Hymenoptera Formicidae) in the Australian wet tropics

Lily Leahy, Brett R. Scheffers, Stephen E. Williams, Alan N. Andersen

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    Anonychomyrma is a dolichoderine ant genus of cool-temperate Gondwanan origin with a current distribution that extends from the north of southern Australia into the Australasian tropics. Despite its abundance and ecological dominance, little is known of its species diversity and distribution throughout its range. Here, we describe the diversity and distribution of Anonychomyrma in the Australian Wet Tropics bioregion, where only two of the many putative species are described. We hypothesise that the genus in tropical Australia retains a preference for cool wet rainforests reminiscent of the Gondwanan forests that once dominated Australia, but now only exist in upland habitats of the Wet Tropics. Our study was based on extensive recent surveys across five subregions and along elevation and vertical (arboreal) gradients. We integrated genetic (CO1) data with morphology to recognise 22 species among our samples, 20 of which appeared to be undescribed. As predicted, diversity and endemism were concentrated in uplands above 900 m a.s.l. Distribution modelling of the nine commonest species identified maximum temperature of the warmest month, rainfall seasonality, and rainfall of the wettest month as correlates of distributional patterns across subregions. Our study supported the notion that Anonychomyrma radiated from a southern temperate origin into the tropical zone, with a preference for areas of montane rainforest that were stably cool and wet over the late quaternary.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number474
    Pages (from-to)1-28
    Number of pages28
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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