Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 543–553 | Cite as

Biogeography, cryptic diversity, and queen dimorphism evolution of the Neotropical ant genus Ectatomma Smith, 1958 (Formicidae, Ectatomminae)

  • Alejandro Nettel-HernanzEmail author
  • Jean-Paul Lachaud
  • Dominique Fresneau
  • Román A. López-Muñoz
  • Chantal Poteaux
Original Article


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.


Cryptic species Neotropical biogeography Speciation events Ant queens Miniaturized queens Social parasitism 



We thank J. Delabie, T. Delsinne, D. Donoso, R. Rodrigues, S. Lacau, J. Longino, A. López, C. Moreau, C. Schmidt, and C. Villemant for sending samples for analyses. We are grateful to L.R. Pérez-Marcelín for help with manuscript preparation, J. Flawell for correcting the English and two anonymous reviewers for their comments. The Fyssen Foundation granted postdoctoral funds to support A. Nettel-Hernanz in conducting this study.

Supplementary material

13127_2015_215_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3.4 mb)
Figure S1 Distributional maps for Ectatomma species considered in this study. Countries of the Neotropical Region are shaded in yellow and countries where each species is reported are shaded in blue, correspondingly (light blue corresponding to assumed presence). (DOCX 3491 kb)
13127_2015_215_MOESM2_ESM.docx (29 kb)
Table S1 Species sampled, localities, coordinates, coded biogeographic region according to Morrone (2006), GenBank accession numbers and voucher specimens deposited in collections. South American E. confine, E. planidens, and E. goninion were omitted because of the difficulty of procuring specimens. Lat, Latitude; Long, Longitude. Collection voucher codes correspond to the following: MNHN, Muséum National d´Histoire Naturelle – Paris, France; DD, local collection at Ecuador (managed by David Donoso); MZUSP, Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil; and CS, Corrie Moreau´s collection. (DOCX 29 kb)


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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandro Nettel-Hernanz
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jean-Paul Lachaud
    • 3
    • 4
  • Dominique Fresneau
    • 2
  • Román A. López-Muñoz
    • 1
  • Chantal Poteaux
    • 2
  1. 1.Instituto de Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad de Ciencias y Artes de ChiapasTuxtla GutiérrezMexico
  2. 2.Laboratoire d’Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée, EA 4443Université Paris-Nord, UFR L.S.H.S.VilletaneuseFrance
  3. 3.Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, CNRS-UMR 5169Université de Toulouse UPSToulouse cedex 09France
  4. 4.Departamento de Conservación de la BiodiversidadEl Colegio de la Frontera SurChetumalMexico

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