Pheidole biconstricta Mayr

Wilson, E. O., 2003, Pheidole in the New World. A dominant, hyperdiverse ant genus., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. -1--1: 143-144

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Pheidole biconstricta Mayr


Pheidole biconstricta Mayr  HNS 

Pheidole biconstricta Mayr  HNS  1870a: 399. Syn.: Pheidole biconstricta subsp. bicolor Emery  HNS  1890c: 50, n. syn.; Pheidole biconstricta r. rubicunda Emery  HNS  1890c: 50, n. syn.; Pheidole biconstricta rubicunda var. fuscata Emery  HNS  1890c: 51 (unavailable name, quadrinomial); Pheidole biconstricta subsp. hybrida Emery  HNS  1894d: 154, n. syn.; Pheidole radoszkowskii r. lallemandi  HNS  Forel 1901d: 133, n. syn.; Pheidole biconstricta bicolor var. regina  HNS  Forel 1908c: 52, n. syn.; biconstricta hybrida var. angustella  HNS  Forel 1912g: 222 (unavailable name, quadrinomial); Pheidole biconstricta var. surda  HNS  Forel 1912g: 222, n. syn; Pheidole biconstricta subsp. burtoni Mann  HNS  1916: 436, n. syn. (provisional); Pheidole holmgreni Wheeler  HNS  1925a: 18, n. syn.; Pheidole holmgreni festata Wheeler  HNS  1925a: 20, n. syn.

I have examined the types of all the above listed forms that are available nomenclaturally. What I have regarded here as the single species biconstricta  HNS  is highly variable in details of size, sculpturing, and color, both locally and geographically, with general and overlapping intergradation. Closer studies with more material may well reveal biconstricta  HNS  to be a complex of sibling species, to which at least some of the names will apply, but for the time being I have chosen the more conservative arrangement, that is, recognition of a single, very variable species.

types Naturhist. Mus. Wien.

Etymology L biconstricta  HNS  , constricted (pinched) twice, once in front of the mesonotum and once behind it. Diagnosis A member of the biconstricta  HNS  group distinguished as follows.

Major: large, with well-developed propodeal spines and prominent rounded humeral angles; head dorsal surface foveolate, space between eye and antennal fossa rugoreticulate; first 2 gastral tergites mostly shagreened and opaque; pilosity sparse on head, moderate on rest of body; body color reddish yellow ("orange") to dark reddish brown, usually a lighter shade; one variant (" bicolor  HNS  ," possibly a distinct species) has a contrasting paler gaster.

Minor: head conspicuously narrowed, with nuchal collar; mesonotal convexity well-developed, leaning forward; propodeal spines short, thick, and erect; occiput, mesothorax, and propodeum foveolate and opaque; anterior half of first gastral tergite shagreened and opaque.

Measurements (mm) Lectotype major: HW 1.62, HL 1.70, SL 1.08, EL 0.22, PW 0.82.

Paralectotype minor: HW 0.78, HL 0.94, SL 1.12, EL 0.16, PW 0.54.

Color Major: yellowish brown (possibly faded).

Minor: light reddish brown; otherwise, see Diagnosis above.

Range Widespread and locally abundant, occurring mostly in tropical moist forests from Guatemala to Brazil and Bolivia; present in Trinidad but absent from Tobago and the rest of the West Indies. Ranges to at least 1500 m in Costa Rica and to 2500 m in Colombia.

Biology P. biconstricta  HNS  is a conspicuous ant in much of the tropical forests of the New World. It forms large colonies, with populations possibly in the tens of thousands, that nest in rotting logs and stumps on the forest floor. John T. Longino (1997) reports that in Costa Rica, "Workers are aggressive, and forage day or night. Large numbers of minor and major workers may be observed swarming out from nests and retrieving live insect prey, with a behavior reminiscent of army ants. Workers also tend Homoptera, and visit extrafloral nectar sources. Colonies may build scattered carton shelters on low vegetation, and tend membracids and other Homoptera beneath them. Workers may aggressively defend extrafloral nectar sources (e.g. Passiflora shoots), driving away herbivores and other ants. Colonies use carton construction to form baffles in rotten wood, and galleries running up tree trunks. At Rara Avis, workers were observed tending large riodinid larvae under carton galleries. Founding queens are found under loose bark of dead wood, in dead branches, and very commonly under epiphyte mats on recently fallen trees."

Charles Kugler (1979d) has described the capture of live insect prey by "gang-pulling, and the hypertrophial pygidial glands, which secrete a viscous gumming agent and irritant when smeared on enemies. Another behavior unusual for Pheidole  HNS  is the lifting of the gaster toward the enemy, making release of the toxin material more effective. Alarm pheromones also emanate from the same gland."

Figure Upper: lectotype, major (with 2 hypostomal teeth; a 4-toothed variant is also shown). Lower: paralectotype, minor. COLOMBIA: Bogota. Scale bars = 1 mm.