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Alicante is a medium-sized province (5,816.5 km2) located in the Valencian Community of eastern Spain. It is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean Sea, which means the ant diversity of most of the province is similar save for at a few elevated points, lakes, or artificially planted or irrigated zones. The largest mountains are part of the Baetic Cordillera, and include points such as Sierra de Aitana (1,558 m) or Puig Campana (1,410 m), which are a major source of ant species diversity. The big sandy dunes in Elche, the high mountain Balcón de Alicante, and several other sites form small ecosystems where it is possible to find meridional or almost endemic species not found in other close provinces. These include Camponotus from North Africa, Myrmica species from the north of Spain, and one Temnothorax from Alicante and Murcia.
Alicante has been surveyed by different authors in different decades. Sampling by De Haro & Collingwood (1988) was the most interesting, listing a total of 40 species (one excluded in our list, Lasius alienus, has been reidentified as Lasius cinereus) for the Aitana and Alfaro mountains and two capes in the north of the province. Other important publications (X. Espadaler, 1997; Collingwood & Yarrow, 1969) can be consulted for a further knowledge and comments of the myrmecologist fauna.
After 1997, the Alicante region was forgotten by myrmecologists until 2008, when the authors began a study that continues today. Sampled places found in the bibliography have been visited again, and other zones are sampled for the first time, specifically the Sierra de Mariola, Serra Grossa, Maigmó and El Clot mountains, with sporadic visits to Santa Barbara and San Fernando castles and other unnamed territories. Ants of Elche, Santa Pola, Alicante (city center) and Benidorm are well known, and only the north of the province needs news samples.
At present, the number of ant species listed for Alicante nears 80, representing 24 genera and 4 different subfamilies. This figure is double the number of ant species known just a decade ago. Alicante’s territory is constantly being sampled, and some interesting species have turned up. Thse include the invasive Tapinoma melanocephalum or Temnothorax cristinae, encountered again after a lapse of almost 20 years. Other recorded species remain lost after their initial record, despite numerous organized expeditions.
The majority of the ants of the Alicante region belong to the genus Camponotus (12 species), followed by Temnothorax (11), Aphaenogaster and Formica (5). Other common genera are Lasius, Pheidole, Plagiolepis, Tetramorium or Tapinoma.
All of the work to resurvey the Alicante region and identify ant species has been possible thanks to the help of mymecologist Xavier Espadaler. JA also would like to thank Chema Catarineu, to whom I am grateful for support and assistance with taxonomy, biology, and geographical comments.
Javier Arcos, Cesar Arroyo & Chema Catarineu