New Names for Old Ants

Taxonomic and nomenclatural changes for the ants of New England

Science marches on!

Since A Field Guide to the Ants of New England was published, ant systematists and taxonomists have formally described some of the undescribed species presented in the book and revised (i.e., changed) the scientific names of other species presented in the book. These nomenclatural changes are a normal part of the science of taxonomy and systematics. As more species are found and described, or their evolutionary relationships are clarified, it is often necessary to rename species.

The most current set of accepted names for ants is maintained and updated regularly online by Barry Bolton in Bolton’s World Catalog of the Ants (referred to herein as “Bolton’s Catalog”).

[ Names for previously undescribed species | New names for previously described species ]

Names for previously undescribed species

27 June 2018 – The hitherto undescribed species of Leptothorax illustrated on p. 251 of The Field Guide – Leptothorax species code AF-can – now has a name! It is now known as Leptothorax canadensis Provancher, 1887.

  • How did this happen? Based on new genetic data collected and analyzed by Sämi Schär and their colleagues (Schär et al. 2018), this species, long placed in the “muscorum” group was defined as a unique species.

13 January 2016 – The hitherto undescribed, parasitic species of Nylanderia illustrated on p. 211 of The Field Guide now has a name! It is known as Nylanderia deceptrix Messer et al., 2016.

  • How did this happen? Steven Messer, Stefan Cover, and John LaPolla described it in their 2016 paper. It is the first description of a social parasite in the genus Nylanderia, and it is parasitic on Nylanderia parvula (Mayr, 1870).
  • Why the name? According to Messer et al., they used the species epithet deceptrix (from the Latin word meaning “deceiver”) because the parasitic lifestyle of this ant deceives its host so as to allow the parasite to cohabitat with it.

24 October 2013 – The hitherto undescribed species of Polyergus illustrated on p. 218 of The Field Guide – Polyergus cf. longicornis – how has a name! It is now known as Polyergus sanwaldi Trager, 2013

  • How did this happen? James Trager had been working on revising the genus Polyergus for nearly a decade. His revisionary treatment was published on 24 October 2013 in Zootaxa (Trager, J. C., 2013, Global revision of the dulotic ant genus Polyergus [Hymenoptera: Formicidae, Formicinae, Formicini], Zootaxa 3722(4): 501-548 [ pdf ]). This well-illustrated paper has a key to all 14 currently recognized species of Polyergus.
  • Why the name? According to Trager, “[t]he species is named for Raymond Sanwald, who led to its discovery through his interest in Polyergus, and his willingness to host years of studies by Howard Topoff and his sudents on the Polyergus species resident at Ray’s Medford (Long Island) NY ‘Ant Ranch.'”

New names for previously described species

27 June 2018 – The species we illustrated as Lasius alienus (Förster, 1850) on p. 189 of The Field Guide; Lasius flavus (Fabricius, 1782) on p. 191; and Lasius umbratus (Nylander, 1846) on p. 203 are now called, respectively Lasius americanus Emery, 1893; Lasius brevicornis Emery, 1893; and Lasius aphidicolus (Walsh, 1863).

  • Why the change? Based on new genetic data collected and analyzed by Sämi Schär and their colleagues (Schär et al. 2018), the North American species of Lasius that shared names (i.e., were considered to be conspecific with) with European species of Lasius were determined to be unique species. This genetic data reported in this paper also supported our use of the name Formica subaenescens Emery, 1893 (p. 173 of The Field Guide).

October 2017 – Tetramorium caespitum (Linneaus, 1758), also referred to as Tetramorium species “E”, on p. 332 of The Field Guide is now called Tetramorium immigrans Santschi, 1927.

  • Why the change? As we discussed in The Field Guide, the identity of this widespread nonnative species has been contested for many years. In a detailed study of the genetics and morphology of the Tetramorium caespitum “complex”, Wagner et al. (2017) identified a number of different species in this complex and provided a new key to them.

18 June 2014 – The species we illustrated as Pachycondyla chinensis Emery, 1895 on p. 91 of The Field Guide is now called Brachyponera chinensis (Emery, 1895).

  • Why the change? In a comprehensive review of the ant subfamily Ponerinae, Schmidt & Shattuck (2014) revived the genus Brachyponera from synonymy with Pachycondyla.

23 July 2014 – Anergates atratulus (Schenck, 1852), illustrated on p. 222 of The Field Guide, is now referred to as Tetramorium atratulum (Schenck, 1852).

  • Why the change? In a comprehensive review and revision of the evolution of the ant subfamily Myrmicinae, Ward et al. (2014) synonymized Anergates within the genus Tetramorium.

22 October 2013 – Pyramica Roger 1862 is once again a junior synonym of Strumigenys Roger, 1863. Hence, the species we illustrate as Pyramica metazytes Bolton, 2000; Pyramica pergandei (Emery, 1895); and Pyramica pulchella (Emery, 1895) on pp. 309–311 of The Field Guide should be called Strumigenys metazytes (Bolton, 2000); Strumigenys pergandei Emery, 1895; and Strumigenys pulchella Emery, 1895.

  • Why the change? The suggestion to reinstate Pyramica Roger 1862 as a junior synonym of Strumigenys Fr. Smith, 1860 was most recently argued by Cesare Baroni Urbani & Maria L. de Andrade in their 2007 paper. The nomenclatural change was subsequently incorporated into the 2013 version of Bolton’s Catalog.

28 August 2013 – Temnothorax schaumi (Roger, 1863) should be Temnothorax schaumii (Roger, 1863).

  • Why the change? Roger originally described the species as Leptothorax schaumii. Mayr (1868) rewrote it as L. schaumi, and the misspelling (one i instead of two) persisted until the January 2012 version of Bolton’s Catalog.

 27 October 2012 – Monomorium viride Brown, 1943 should be Monomorium viridum Brown, 1943

  • Why the change? According to Barry Bolton, in Brown’s original description of this species, he called this ant M. viridum, even though viridum is not a Latin word. So viridum is considered a neologism with a latinized neuter ending, and since it’s not a Latin word, it cannot be altered to viride. The nomenclatural confusion arose because Bolton’s 1995 (printed) Catalog of Ants of the World listed this as M. viride, but this name was never formally proposed as an emendation of the original name (M. viridum). In recent (online) versions of the Catalog, Bolton has reverted to viridum.

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