Evolution of nest-weaving behaviour in arboreal nesting ants of the genus Polyrhachis Fr. Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Robson, Simon K.A., and Kohout, Rudolf J. (2005) Evolution of nest-weaving behaviour in arboreal nesting ants of the genus Polyrhachis Fr. Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Australian Journal of Entomology, 44 (2). pp. 164-169.

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Polyrhachis ants represent one of the most taxonomically and ecologically diverse ant genera, with over 500 described species organised into 12 subgenera. Nesting habits range from subterranean localities to arboreal nests incorporating silk produced by the ants' own larvae (nest weaving). In this article, we combine scanning electron microscopy and gross observations of the nests of 35 species representing nine subgenera thought to contain individuals that nest above the ground (Cyrtomyrma, Hagiomyrma, Hedomyrma, Hemioptica, Myrma, Myrmatopa, Myrmhopla, Myrmothrinax, Polyrhachis) to revaluate the relationship between nest locale, the type of nest material used and the use of larval silk for nest construction. Nesting habits are highly diverse, ranging from truly arboreal nests on or between leaves and branches, to lignicolous nests inside hollow stems or bamboo internodes and lithocolous nests on the sides of rock walls. Flat sheets of larval silk are used only by arboreal nesting species within the subgenera Cyrtomyrma, Hemioptica, Myrma, Myrmatopa, Myrmothrinax and Polyrhachis. Lignicolous nesting habits were demonstrated predominantly by Hedomyrma spp., but these habits also occur in Myrma and Myrmhopla. Lithicolous nesting habits occur within Hagiomyrma and Hedomyrma, though the actual nesting material used can be either carton or dense masses of spider silk. Based on existing phylogenetic hypotheses, the use of larval silk for nest construction has evolved independently within the genus, and has evolved independently of the construction of silk nests per se. Further examination of the exact type of silk found in the colonies of 'nest-weaving' Polyrhachis is warranted.

Item ID: 1265
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1440-6055
Keywords: Polyrhachis, nest-weaving, silk, Formicidae, arboreal
Date Deposited: 14 May 2007
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069999 Biological Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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