Stridulations Reveal Cryptic Speciation in Neotropical Sympatric Ants

Abstract : The taxonomic challenge posed by cryptic species underlines the importance of using multiple criteria in species delimitation. In the current paper we tested the use of acoustic analysis as a tool to assess the real diversity in a cryptic species complex of Neotropical ants. In order to understand the potential of acoustics and to improve consistency in the conclusions by comparing different approaches, phylogenetic relationships of all the morphs considered were assessed by the analysis of a fragment of the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b. We observed that each of the cryptic morph studied presents a morphologically distinct stridulatory organ and that all sympatric morphs produce distinctive stridulations. This is the first evidence of such a degree of specialization in the acoustic organ and signals in ants, which suggests that stridulations may be among the cues used by these ants during inter-specific interactions. Mitochondrial DNA variation corroborated the acoustic differences observed, confirming acoustics as a helpful tool to determine cryptic species in this group of ants, and possibly in stridulating ants in general. Congruent morphological, acoustic and genetic results constitute sufficient evidence to propose each morph studied here as a valid new species, suggesting that P. apicalis is a complex of at least 6 to 9 species, even if they present different levels of divergence. Finally, our results highlight that ant stridulations may be much more informative than hitherto thought, as much for ant communication as for integrative taxonomists.
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Ronara Souza Ferreira, Chantal Poteaux, Jacques Hubert Charles Delabie, Dominique Fresneau, Fanny Rybak. Stridulations Reveal Cryptic Speciation in Neotropical Sympatric Ants. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2010, 5 (12), pp.e15363. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0015363⟩. ⟨hal-02264455⟩

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