The ant fauna of Timor and neighbouring islands: Potential bridges between the disjunct faunas of South East Asia and Australia

Colin Trainor, Alan Andersen

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    This study examines the biogeography of the ant fauna of Timor and of stepping stone Nusa Tenggara islands to the north (Wetar, Atauro, Alor, Pantar and Lembata) that are geographically closer to continental South East Asia. Timor is of outstanding biogeographical significance because it is the second largest island within the Wallacean transitional zone between the closely approximated but geologically distinct Indo-Australasian and South East Asian continental plates. It represents a potential overlap zone between the otherwise disjunct ant faunas of Australia and South East Asia. A total of 154 ant species from 32 genera and six subfamilies were collected through a combination of systematic sampling in evergreen forest, dry forest, savanna and grassland at 23 locations in the Lautem district of Timor-Leste, and opportunistic collections at 29 sites elsewhere on Timor and on the neighbouring islands. The most species-rich genera were Camponotus and Polyrhachis (both 28 species), Tetramorium (14 species), Diacamma and Paratrechina (both 8 species). On Timor, 111 ant species were recorded, including 64 species in the Lautem district. The Timor ant fauna is dominated by taxa of South East Asian origin (76% of native species), and has only weak Australian affinities (18%). The latter figure is even smaller (14%) for the neighbouring islands, reflecting their closer proximity to South East Asia. In contrast to Australia, there was no clear disjunction between the ant faunas of contrasting tropical forest and savanna habitats sampled in Lautem district. This can be explained by the Timor ant fauna being dominated by South East Asian tropical forest taxa, with Australian savanna woodland taxa being poorly represented. � CSIRO 2010.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)133-144
    Number of pages12
    JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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