Phylogeny and bionomics of Lasius austriacus (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)
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Phylogenetic analysis based on sequence data of the mitochondrial COI gene confirms the species status of the recently described Lasius austriacus. The five haplotypes of L. austriacus do not cluster according to their geographic origin, indicating a recent gene flow among the populations. The molecular data corroborate the morphology based hypothesis that L. austriacus belongs to the Lasius (Lasius s.str.) brunneus group. The invasive species Lasius neglectus forms a sister taxon with L. turcicus, both next related to L. austriacus. Other phylogenetic relationships within the genus Lasius are in accordance with morphological data.
First data on the bionomics of L. austriacus are discussed in context with its phylogenetic position. Based on gyne and male morphology, excavations of nests, pitfall trapping and observations in formicaries, we hypothesize that L. austriacus is a mainly hypogaeic, monogynous species with nuptial flight. These are characters of the Lasius brunneus group in general, except the polygynous-polycalic, intranidally copulating L. neglectus. Aggression tests, however, revealed non-aggressive behaviour (antennation) between separated L. austriacus populations, but pronounced interspecific aggression against L. neglectus. This confirms the species status of L. austriacus and indicates a reduced level of intraspecific aggression, similar to L. neglectus.
The status of L. austriacus as a native species in Central Europe is confirmed.
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