New subfamily!

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New subfamily!

Post by Benoit Guenard on Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:36 pm

A news like this one does not arrive every day. Martialis heureka is the first species (will it be the only one?) of the new ant subfamily Martialidae.
Not only it is a new subfamily, but it seems that this one could solve some of the problems in ant phylogeny.

One of the author, Christian Rabeling was instructor at the Antcourse, and gave us a very good talk on his new discovery.

The article is available on the early version of PNAS under the title:

Newly discovered sister lineage sheds light on early ant evolution
by Christian Rabeling, Jeremy M. Brown and Manfred Verhaagh.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/09/13/0806187105.abstract

Here is the abstract
Ants are the world's most conspicuous and important eusocial insects and their diversity, abundance, and extreme behavioral specializations make them a model system for several disciplines within the biological sciences. Here, we report the discovery of a new ant that appears to represent the sister lineage to all extant ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). The phylogenetic position of this cryptic predator from the soils of the Amazon rainforest was inferred from several nuclear genes, sequenced from a single leg. Martialis heureka (gen. et sp. nov.) also constitutes the sole representative of a new, morphologically distinct subfamily of ants, the Martialinae (subfam. nov.). Our analyses have reduced the likelihood of long-branch attraction artifacts that have troubled previous phylogenetic studies of early-diverging ants and therefore solidify the emerging view that the most basal extant ant lineages are cryptic, hypogaeic foragers. On the basis of morphological and phylogenetic evidence we suggest that these specialized subterranean predators are the sole surviving representatives of a highly divergent lineage that arose near the dawn of ant diversification and have persisted in ecologically stable environments like tropical soils over great spans of time.

Read also the impression of Alex Wild on his blog:
http://myrmecos.wordpress.com/
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Benoit Guenard
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