Accepted by J.Longino: 17 Jan. 2008; published: 27 Feb. 2008 47
ISSN 1175-5326 (print edition)
ISSN 1175-5334 (online edition)
Copyright © 2008 · Magnolia Press
Zootaxa 1713: 47–52 (2008)
A new social parasite in the ant genus Ectatomma F. Smith
(Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Ectatomminae)
RODRIGO M. FEITOSA1, RIVIANE R. HORA2, 3, JACQUES H. C. DELABIE4, 5, JORGE VALENZUELA6
& DOMINIQUE FRESNEAU2
1Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Nazaré 481, 04263-000, Ipiranga, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.
2Laboratoire d’Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée (CNRS UMR 7153), Université Paris-Nord, 99, Avenue J. -B. Clément, 93430,
Villetaneuse, France. E-mail: Dominique.Fresneau@leec.univ-paris13.fr
3Departamento de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Av. P.H. Rolfs s/n, 36570-000, Viçosa, MG, Brazil.
4Laboratório de Mirmecologia, Convênio UESC/CEPEC, Centro de Pesquisas do Cacau, C.P. 7, 45600-000, Itabuna, BA, Brazil.
5Departamento de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, 45650-000, Ilhéus, BA, Brazil.
6Instituto de Ecologia, A. C., Km 2.5, antigua carretera a Coatepec, A.P. 63, 91000, Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.
Ectatomma parasiticum Feitosa & Fresneau, a new ant species socially parasitic on Ectatomma tuberculatum (Olivier),
is described from gynes discovered in Apazapan, state of Veracruz, Mexico, and reared in the laboratory. Ectatomma
parasiticum is the first social parasite described in the Ectatomminae. This species can be distinguished from its host by
morphological and behavioral features characteristic of the inquilines known in other ant subfamilies including reduced
size, thickened petiole, and agonistic interactions with host species.
Key words: Ectatomminae, Ectatomma tuberculatum, Social parasitism, Taxonomy, Mexico
The ant genus Ectatomma includes 14 relatively large species occurring predominantly in the Neotropical
Region, with the widespread species Ectatomma tuberculatum (Olivier) also occurring in the Neartic Region
(Bolton et al. 2006; Fernández & Ospina 2003). These ants occur in a variety of warm habitats, and because
they are often abundant and conspicuous, they figure prominently in ecological studies (Kugler & Brown
1982). Species of Ectatomma are generalized predators of a variety of small arthropods and earthworms in
addition to collecting honeydew from homopterous insects and nectar from plant sources (e.g. Weber 1946;
Wheeler 1986; Dejean & Lachaud 1992; Pie 2004).
Instances of social parasitism in ants have a patchy taxonomic and geographic occurrence, being well
known among north temperate ants in the subfamilies Formicinae and Myrmicinae (Wilson 1971; Hölldobler
& Wilson 1990). Hora et al. (2005) demonstrated the parasitic nature of microgynes found in colonies of a
Mexican population of E. tuberculatum. These individuals concentrate their reproductive efforts almost exclu-
sively on the production of sexual offspring, and they are genetically distinct and reproductively isolated from
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48 · Zootaxa 1713 © 2008 Magnolia Press
In the present paper we describe the microgyne from Hora et al. (2005) as a new species, Ectatomma par-
asiticum Feitosa & Fresneau, a social parasite. It is the fifteenth species described in the genus and represents
the first case of social parasitism in the subfamily Ectatomminae.
Material and methods
The species described in the present study was obtained while collecting colonies of E. tuberculatum during
fieldwork in Apazapan, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico (19º19’38”N; 96º43’21”W) from September 1999 to
July 2000. The parasitic gynes were promptly distinguished by eye on the basis of their reduced size com-
pared to E. tuberculatum gynes. Colonies were reared in laboratory and new parasitic specimens were pro-
duced (about 65 gynes from eight different colonies). Depository collections are referred to by the following
CPDC Centro de Pesquisas do Cacau, Itabuna, Bahia, Brazil.
INEC Instituto de Ecologia, Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.
LACM Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Los Angeles, California, USA.
MZSP Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.
UNCB Museo de Historia Natural del Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Bogotá, Colombia.
USNM National Museum of Natural History; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of Ectatomma parasiticum were made at MZSP with a
LEO 440® microscope. The specimen was previously cleaned in acetone, critical-point dried in a Balzer (Bal-
Tec® CPD 030), and coated with gold (Bal-Tec® SCD 050). Measurements were obtained with a micrometric
reticule and using the scale of the SEM. All measurements are given in mm and the abbreviations used are:
HL head length; the maximum measurable length of head capsule excluding mandibles, measured in
full-face view, in a straight line from the mid-point of the anterior clypeal margin to the mid-point of
the vertexal margin.
HW head width; the maximum width of the head capsule measured in full-face view, excluding the com-
SL antennal scape length; the chord length of the antennal scape, excluding the basal condyle and its
EL eye length; the maximum measurable length of eyes in profile.
PW pronotal width; in dorsal view, the maximum width of the pronotum.
WL mesosoma length (Weber´s length); the diagonal length of mesosoma in profile, from the mid-point
of the anterior pronotal declivity to the posterior basal angle of the metapleuron.
PTL petiole length; in dorsal view, the maximum length of the petiole.
PTW petiole width; in dorsal view, the maximum width of the petiole.
CI cephalic index. HW x 100/HL.
SI scape index. SL x 100/HW.
OI optical index. EL x 100/HW.
PTI petiolar index. PTL x 100/PTW.
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A NEW SOCIAL PARASITE IN ECTATOMMA
Ectatomma parasiticum Feitosa & Fresneau, sp. nov.
Figures 1, 2
Holotype gyne. MEXICO: Apazapan, Veracruz, 19º19’38”N 96º43’21”W, ix.1999, D. Fresneau col. [INEC].
Paratypes. same data as holotype (1 gyne) [CPDC]; (1 gyne) [UNCB]; (1 gyne) [INEC]; vii.2000, D.
Fresneau & R. Hora cols. (1 gyne) [LACM]; (2 gynes) [MZSP]; (1 gyne) [USNM].
Diagnosis. Size relatively small (WL approximately 3.80 mm); clypeus and frontal area without sculp-
ture; antennal scapes longer than the maximum head width (SI > 108); petiole relatively thick in lateral view.
Gyne description. Holotype (paratypes): HL 2.10 (2.06–2.16); HW 1.85 (1.73–1.88); SL 2.04 (1.92–
2.06); EL 0.51 (0.50–0.58); PW 1.69 (1.62–1.77); WL 3.88 (3.65–4.04); PTL 0.79 (0.78–0.88); PTW 0.92
(0.92–1.07); CI 88.07 (84.11–88.89); SI 110.42 (108.57–113.04); OI 27.50 (27.50–31.25); PTI 85 (82.14–
85.71). Color yellowish brown to dark reddish brown, including appendages. Mandibles finely and densely
striate, with sparse piligerous punctures; clypeus, genae, and frontal area predominantly smooth, but opaque;
dorsal surface of head densely and coarsely reticulated, except for the areas of antennal articulations, which
are finely punctate; ventral surface of head with sparse longitudinal striae; antennal scapes finely and longitu-
dinally striate. Mesosoma with variously oriented costulae, from sparse and transverse on dorsum of prono-
tum and propodeum to dense and subconcentric on the dorsum of scutum and scutellum; forecoxae with
dense, fine, regular transverse striation; legs mostly smooth and shining. Lateral and posterior faces of petiolar
node with sparse, short, longitudinal costulae; sculpture of gaster consisting of arched, transverse costulae,
becoming gradually finer from first to terminal segment.
Pilosity cream-colored. Body covered by relatively sparse, long, suberect hairs; antennal scapes and legs
with short, suberect hairs; antennal funiculi and tarsi covered by fine apressed pubescence.
Head subrectangular, with weakly convex lateral borders and vertexal margin straight; masticatory mar-
gins of mandibles multidenticulate and with a large apical tooth; clypeus strongly convex anteriorly; frontal
lobes reduced; scapes in repose fairly surpassing the posterolateral margins of vertex; funicular segments
gradually thickened distally; compound eyes placed near the posterolateral portions of head; ocelli present
and reduced in size.
Pronotum with a distinct median eminence directed forward and a conspicuous pair of dorsolateral
(humeral) projections; scutum large and rounded; notauli almost indistinct among sculpturation; parapsidial
lines feebly visible and subparallel; scutoscutellar sulcus deeply impressed; scutellum relatively narrow and
strongly convex, in lateral view; dorsal face of propodeum meeting the declivous face in a pair of reduced,
blunt teeth; propodeal spiracle elliptical. Wing venation fully developed. Forewing with a weakly colored
stigma; longitudinal veins Sc+R, SR, M, Cu, and A present; SR extending distally beyond stigma, forming 1R
and 2R cells; cross vein 1r vestigial, not forming the 2R cell; M and Cu also extend distally as tubular veins
for most of their length; A not extending beyond the junction with Cu; C, R, Cu, 1M, 1Cu, and SR cells
closed. Hind wing with Sc+R extending beyond point where they connect to M, which continues as a tubular
vein as much as Sc+R and then extends as spectral vein to wing distal border; basally M+Cu extending as a
tubular vein beyond junction with Anal vein, which continues shortly beyond this point; seven submedian
Petiole ventrally carinate; in lateral view, petiolar node thick and subtriangular; anterior slope nearly con-
cave and posterior slope slightly convex. Sternite of first gastral segment with a distinct anterior projection.
Worker. Unknown (but see comments bellow).
Etymology. The specific epithet is a reference to the parasitic nature of this species.
FEITOSA ET AL.
50 · Zootaxa 1713 © 2008 Magnolia Press
FIGURE 1. Paratype gyne of Ectatomma parasiticum: A, head in full face view; B, lateral view; C, dorsal view.
Comments. Gynes of the socially parasitic Ectatomma parasiticum can be distinguished from the gynes
of its host species, E. tuberculatum, by the following features: sparser sculpture on the body; smaller size (Fig.
2), with WL approximately 3.80 mm (around 5.40 mm in E. tuberculatum); clypeus and frontal area devoid of
any sculpture (usually longitudinally striate in E. tuberculatum); antennal scapes longer than the maximum
head width, with SI > 108 (< 99 in E. tuberculatum); propodeal spines reduced to minute teeth; and petiole
Zootaxa 1713 © 2008 Magnolia Press · 51
A NEW SOCIAL PARASITE IN ECTATOMMA
thicker in lateral view (flattened anteroposteriorly in E. tuberculatum). The reduced size and widener petiole
of E. parasiticum are also characteristic of the inquiline syndrome in other ant species (Wilson 1984; Rad-
chenko & Elmes 2003).
Males produced by parasitized colonies were of a uniform morphology and indistinguishable from males
of E. tuberculatum. Thus it remains unknown if males of E. parasiticum are lacking, present but not yet
observed, or observed but indistinguishable from E. tuberculatum. According to Hora et al. (2005), one of the
10 colonies of E. parasiticum reared in laboratory produced four small "workers." However, these workers
presented a developed spermatheca and six to 10 ovarioles, in contrast to typical workers of E. tuberculatum
which lack the spermatheca and possess only one to four ovarioles (Fénerón & Billen 1996; Hora et al. 2001).
The presence of developed reproductive structures in these specimens suggests that they are possibly interme-
diate (intercaste?) reproductive forms of E. parasiticum and not true workers.
Up to now, the occurrence of this species is restricted to Apazapan, state of Veracruz, Mexico. However,
its host, E. tuberculatum, is widely distributed in the Neotropics, from Mexico to northern Argentina. We
expect that the excavation and detailed examination of E. tuberculatum colonies in different localities could
reveal new populations of E. parasiticum.
A detailed behavioral and genetic study on the interaction between E. tuberculatum and E. parasiticum
(so far undescribed and treated as “microgynes”) was conducted by Hora et al. (2005). Gynes and workers of
E. tuberculatum and gynes of E. parasiticum were sequenced for the cyt b region and the results showed two
haplotypes. The haplotypes differed in seven variable sites, with a nucleotide sequence difference of 0.93%.
They clearly discriminate E. parasiticum from the group composed of workers and gynes of E. tuberculatum.
According to the findings of Hora et al. (op. cit.), E. parasiticum is a genetically distinct social parasite pro-
ducing of almost exclusively sexual offspring. The co-occurrence of E. parasiticum and E. tuberculatum in
the field (nine mixed colonies found) suggests that the parasite usurps established colonies of the host, but
does not kill the resident gynes. Agonistic interactions were also observed, exclusively from workers and
gynes of E. tuberculatum against the parasites.
FIGURE 2. Morphometric scatterplot of head width by scape length, differentiating gynes of Ectatomma parasiticum
and E. tuberculatum. Measurements are in mm.
FEITOSA ET AL.
52 · Zootaxa 1713 © 2008 Magnolia Press
Microgynes are also found in Ectatomma ruidum; however, this is a truly gyne-polymorphic species, and
the offspring of both microgynes and normal gynes consist of workers, males, and both microgynes and nor-
mal gynes. It was therefore suggested that the two gyne morphs in E. ruidum represent alternative phenotypes
adapted to different ways of dispersal and colony founding. Ectatomma ruidum microgynes are thought to dis-
perse and to found new colonies solitarily, while the macrogynes are a stationary morph (Lachaud et al. 1999).
The study of Hora et al. (2005) and the present paper raise the possibility of the occurrence of similar
undescribed social parasites within other basal ant lineages.
The authors would like to thank Alex Wild, Alexander Radchenko, Riita Savolainen, and Jack Longino for the
critical reading and the invaluable comments on the manuscript. Lara M. Guimarães took the SEM images.
Rogério Rosa da Silva kindly prepared the morphometric scatterplot. We also acknowledge M. Favila, L.
Quiroz (INEC, Mexico), C. Rojas, A. Wolf, and K. Wolf for the technical support during fieldwork. RRH
received financial support from FAPEMIG and CAPES, Brazil, Project CAPES/COFECUB no. 244/98-II.
RMF and JHCD acknowledge the research grant received from FAPESP and CNPq, respectively. This work
was partially supported by BRI (Université Paris-Noird, France).
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