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Biogeography, cryptic diversity, and queen dimorphism evolution of the Neotropical ant genus Ectatomma Smith, 1958 (Formicidae, Ectatomminae)
Abstract and Figures
Due to its high biodiversity and its complex climatic and geological history, the Neotropical region has caught the attention of evolutionary and conservation biologists. The Neotropics have an understudied and probably extensive cryptic diversity, stemming from old lineages that have persisted through time with highly similar morphology or from new morphologically undifferentiated sibling species. The wide-ranging Neotropical ant genus Ectatomma currently has only 15 described species, some of which present limited distribution. These ants provide an excellent system for the study of diversification and cryptic diversity in the Neotropics. Ectatomma also displays queen-size dimorphism in some northern populations of its two most common species: a case of true microgyny and a recently described parasitic species. We performed a phylogenetic and biogeographic analysis of Ectatomma species using two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear gene. We also explored the relationship between the history of the genus and the appearance of miniaturized queens. Our analysis recovered a monophyletic Ectatomma that originated in the Parana region of South America. We recorded three likely events of colonization of the Caribbean-Mesoamerican region. We also detected ample evidence of cryptic divergence that deserves a full taxonomic revision of the genus. Miniature queens—microgynes and parasites—represent two independent evolutionary events that appeared in the recent history of the genus.
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