Saturday, 16 May 2015

Romblonella coryae: A new species of Ant from Palawan Island, the Philippines.

Ants of the genus Romblonella are found across much of Indonesia as well as parts of the Philippines, Australia and Fiji. The genus was originally erected in 1935 to describe a new Ant species from Romblon Island in the Philippines, though it was later discovered that this species had previously been described from Sulawesi; since the Sulawesi species had been incorrectly placed in a pre-existing genus with Ants to which it was only distantly related the genus name has remained in use. This species, Romblonella opaca, is now known from four islands of the Philippines plus several islands in Indonesia, though all other described species in the genus appear to have very limited and localized distributions.

In a paper published in the journal Halteres on 11 May 2015, David General of the Los Baños Museum of Natural History at the University of the Philippines and Perry Buenavente of the National Museum of the Philippines described a new species of Romblonella from Palawan Island, the second species in the genus known from the Philippines, the first species from Palawan and the only species known only from the Philippines at this time.

The new species is named Romblonella coryae, in honour of the former Philippine president Corazon Aquino. The species is described from nine worker Ants collected in and around a camp in Cleopatra’s Needle Forest on Palawan. These are between 4.60 mm and 4.88 mm in length and dark brown in colour with dark orange markings on their backs and yellow on their mandibles, antennae and first and middle pairs of legs.

Romblonella coryae, worker Ant in lateral view. General & Buenavente (2015).

Very little is known about the biology of Romblonella Ants; most species are known only from a handful of specimens, typically collected at the same time, and the genus is known from a few isolated spots across a very wide area. General and Buenavente suggest that the locations from which the known specimens of Romblonella coryae were collected may shed some light on this. The camp around which they were found was located in primary rainforest (i.e. rainforest comprising tall trees with a dense canopy but limited groundcover) in a lowland area about 200 m above sea level. Four of the specimens were collected from the tops of tarpaulins in the camp, two from leaf litter in the camp, and three from nearby trails. General and Buenavente suggest that this distribution may imply the species nests in the canopy of the forest, and the collected individuals may have been blown out of the trees and have fallen to the ground. They suggest that investigating the canopy may reveal more about this species and other members of the genus.

Known localities of Romblonella Ants in the Philippines. David General in General & Buenavente (2015).

See also…

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