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Austria is a small country (84,000 km²) located in the center of Europe. Its faunal diversity is comparatively high due to the country’s varied geological, altitudinal (114 - 3,797 m) and climatic structure. The Alpine region of Austria (Flysch zone, Northern Calcareous and Central Alps, and a narrow strip of the Southern Alps) adjoins the Continental region, which includes the Bohemian Massif, Alpine forelands and the Pannonian lowland. The native ant fauna of Austria comprises 4 subfamilies, 29 genera and 127 species. Additionally, three genera and eight species of introduced ants have been recorded, but are not known to establish outdoor populations. Fortunately, Austria has thus far remained free of introduced, free-living species that already infest outdoor habitats in neighbouring countries (e.g., Linepithema humile, Lasius neglectus).
The systematics of Central European ants is well understood. Nevertheless, several species-level changes have been made within the last few years. For example, new species have been discovered and described (Lasius austriacus) or characterized under code names (Tetramorium sp.A, sp.B, sp.D, sp.E). Other species have been revived from synonymy (Ponera testacea, Tetramorium hungaricum, Myrmica lobulicornis), elevated from subspecies to species rank (Temnothorax saxonicus) or recognized to have been listed under the wrong names (correct names: Formica picea, F. fuscocinera). Two species (Tetramorium rhenanum, Myrmica microrubra) were sunk into junior synonymy. Finally, there are several nominal species strongly suspected to comprise more than one biospecies; final clarification is still under way (e.g., Messor cf. structor).
The inventory of the Austrian ant fauna is likely almost complete. The true number of native species probably does not exceed 135. Over the last decade, the intensity of research has differed across the nine Austrian states, with the eastern (Lower Austria, Vienna) and western (Vorarlberg) areas investigated most thoroughly. At present, no national red data book exists for Austria as a whole though these references have been assembled for Carinthia, Lower Austria and Vorarlberg. A number of people have contributed to Austrian myrmecofaunistics over the past decade. They are listed here in alphabetic order: Johann Ambach, Eugen Bregant († 2003), Alfred Buschinger, Christian Dietrich, Florian Glaser, Hannes Müller, Sylvester Ölzant, Wolfgang Rabitsch, Birgit Schlick-Steiner, Stefan Schödl († 2005; obituary), Bernhard Seifert, Florian Steiner, and Herbert Zettel.
The changes to Central European ant systematics mentioned above mean that identifying Austrian ants to species level now requires consulting a series of publications. Rather than listing them all here, we refer to Bernhard Seifert’s May 2007 book on Central and Northern European ants (available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org; note that we do NOT share profit), which contains comprehensive keys. But even with Seifert’s book, which is essential to anyone working on Central and Northern European ants, the best resource to identify workers of the Tetramorium caespitum/impurum complex remains the Cyber Identification Engine.Recent papers on Austrian ants by Birgit Schlick-Steiner & Florian Steiner plus coworkers include: Faunistics (1,2), Systematic biology (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), Bionomics (9, 10, 11, 12), Conservation biology (13,14,15), Relationships with other insects (16, 17, 18).
Birgit Schlick-Steiner & Florian Steiner