Unrecognized Ant Megadiversity in Monsoonal Australia: Diversity and Its Distribution in the Hyperdiverse Monomorium nigrius Forel Group

Alan N. Andersen, François Brassard, Benjamin D. Hoffmann

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Abstract

We document diversity and its distribution within the hyperdiverse Monomorium nigrius Forel group of the Australian monsoonal tropics, an unrecognized global centre of ant diversity. The group includes a single described species, but several distinct morphotypes each with multiple clearly recognizable taxa are known. Our analysis is based on 401 CO1-sequenced specimens collected from throughout the Australian mainland but primarily in the monsoonal north and particularly from four bioregions: the Top End (northern third) of the Northern Territory (NT), the Sturt Plateau region of central NT, the Kimberley region of far northern Western Australia, and far North Queensland. Clade structure in the CO1 tree is highly congruent with the general morphotypes, although most morphotypes occur in multiple clades and are therefore shown as polyphyletic. We recognize 97 species among our sequenced specimens, and this is generally consistent (if not somewhat conservative) with PTP analyses of CO1 clustering. Species turnover is extremely high both within and among bioregions in monsoonal Australia, and the monsoonal fauna is highly distinct from that in southern Australia. We estimate that the M. nigrius group contains well over 200 species in monsoonal Australia, and 300 species overall. Our study provides further evidence that monsoonal Australia should be recognized as a global centre of ant diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number46
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalDiversity
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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