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Species: Aphaenogaster pythia   Forel, 1915 

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Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2019)

Aphaenogaster (Deromyrma) pythia Forel, 1915b PDF: 76 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Australasia. AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

Combination in Aphaenogaster (Nystalomyrma): Wheeler, 1916n PDF: 219.
See also: Smith, 1961b PDF: 229; Shattuck, 2008A PDF: 41.

Taxon Page Images:

Aphaenogaster pythia (Rossville, Queensland, Australia).
Image copyright Alex Wild.


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Oceania: Australia, Papua New Guinea
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):

Taxonomic Treatment (provided by Plazi)

Treatment Citation: Shattuck, S. O., 2008, Australian ants of the genus Aphaenogaster (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)., Zootaxa 1677, pp. 25-45

Aphaenogaster pythia ForelHNS

(Figs 15, 16, 23, 30)

Aphaenogaster (Deromyrma)pythia ForelHNS, 1915: 76.

Aphaenogaster longicepsHNS: Mayr, 1876: 96 (misidentification recognised by M. R. Smith, 1961: 229).

Aphaenogaster (Deromyrma) longicepsHNS: Forel, 1915: 75 (as A. ruginotaHNS, misidentification recognised by M. R. Smith, 1961: 229).

Aphaenogaster (Nystalomyrma) pythia ForelHNS: Wheeler, 1916: 219.

Types. Neotype worker, Australia, Queensland, Millstream National Park, near Ravenshoe, 6 August, 1975, B. B. Lowery, dry sclerophyll (ANIC) (ANIC 32-031018) (additional non-type material from this nest series includes 40 workers, two queens (one dealate) and one male) (ANIC 32-000767) (ANIC, MCZC, QMBA).

Diagnosis. Hairs on venter of head randomly distributed and not forming a distinct psammophore (Fig. 16); posterior margin of head nearly flat in full face view, extending laterally of the occipital collar before passing through a distinct posterolateral corner into the lateral margin of the head (Fig. 15); propodeal spines short (Fig. 16); scape relatively short (SI less than 125, Fig. 23). This species is most similar to A. reichelaeHNS, and can be separated from it by the relatively shorter scapes and in having distinct dorsal and posterior petiolar node faces.

Description. Posterior margin of head nearly flat in full face view, extending laterally of the occipital collar before passing through a distinct posterolateral corner into the lateral margin of the head. Hairs on venter of head randomly distributed and not forming a distinct psammophore. Mandibular sculpture composed of irregularly sized striations. Erect hairs on mesosomal dorsum tapering to sharp points. Propodeal spines short. Dorsal surfaces of propodeum and propodeal spines connected through a gentle concavity (so that the base of each spine is at approximately the same level as the dorsal surface of the propodeum). Petiolar node (in dorsal view) wider than long.

Measurements. Worker (n = 12). CI 83-93; EI 15-22; EL 0.16-0.22; HL 0.97-1.39; HW 0.85-1.23; ML 1.34-1.94; MTL 0.75-1.13; SI 107-122; SL 1.02-1.40.

Material examined (in ANIC unless otherwise noted). New South Wales: Glenugie SF., 15mi.S Grafton (Lowery,B.B.); Macksville (Lowery,B.B.); Macksville, Warrell Ck. area (Lowery,B.B.); Murwillumbah (Lowery,B.B.); Port Macquarie (Pullen,R.); Round Mountain, Kingscliff (Lowery,B.B.); Terranora Lakes Golf course (Seymour,G.J.). Queensland: 10km W Herberton (Lowery,B.B.); 10mi. S Atherton; 12km W Paluma (Lowery,B.B.); 15km SbyE Byfield (Taylor,R.W. & Weir,T.A.); 18km S Banana (Lowery,B.B.); 20km N Cairns (Lowery,B.B.); 20km S Eton (Lowery,B.B.); 6km SSE Eungella (Taylor,R.W. & Weir,T.A.); 6mi. SW Karara (Greaves,T.); 8km W Tully, nr. Rocky Ck. Bridge (Lowery,B.B.); Atherton (A.H.W.); Bauple, State Forest 958 (Vanderwoude,C.); Brookfield (Greenslade,P.J.M.); Bruce Hwy, 5km N Aphis Ck., 54km N Marlborough (Lowery,B.B.); c. 8km W Paluma (Taylor,R.W. & Feehan,J.E.); Cedar Creek, Tamborine Mt. (Brown,W.L.); Clohesy River (Greaves,T.); Como Scarp (Greenslade,P.J.M.); Cooloola, Chalamban [Chalambar] (Greenslade,P.J.M.); Cooloola, Como Scarp (Greenslade,P.J.M.); Cooloola, Noosa R. (Greenslade,P.J.M.); Egger Farm Paddock, Yungaburra (Cutter,A.D.); Gore (Lowery,B.B.); Herberton (Lowery,B.B.); Highvale (Marks) (Barrett,J.H.); Kirrama Forest (Greenslade,P.J.M.); Koah (Wheeler,W.M.); L. Eacham NP (Taylor,R.W.); Mackay (Turner,G.); Mareeba (Lowery,B.B.); Millstream NP nr. Ravenshoe (Lowery,B.B.); Mt. Mort, Grandchester (Greaves,T.); Noosa River, Cooloola Natl Pk (Greenslade,P.J.M.); Obi Obi Ck., Blackall Ra. (Taylor,R.W.); Scraggy Pt., Hinchinbrook Is. (Ward,P.S.) (ANIC, PSWC); St. Lawrence (Cudmore,F.A.); Thurling Farm, Malanda (Cutter,A.D.); Tully (Lowery,B.B.); Wallaman Falls (Lowery,B.B.); West Coorey [Cooroy West]. Papua New Guinea: Bulolo (Lowery,B.B.); Wau, goldfields (Lowery,B.B.).

Comments. This is a fairly wide ranging species and the only species to occur outside Australia (in Papua New Guinea). Its main range is coastal northern New South Wales north through Queensland, with a smaller disjunct population in southern PNG (Fig. 30). Given this wide distribution and the broad range of habitats in which it is found (see below), it is curious that in Australia this species occurs in three fairly narrow regions separated by areas where it is apparently absent. There is no morphological evidence to indicate that more than one species is involved, yet this distribution pattern might suggest otherwise. Additional investigation into this pattern may be well rewarded.

Aphaenogaster pythiaHNS occurs in a wide range of habitats including coastal scrub, dry sclerophyll, suburban parks and pastures, wet sclerophyll and rainforests. Nests are either in the open with large funnel-shaped entrances or under rocks or logs on the ground. The biology of this species was discussed by Hitchcock (1958) and its control by Hitchcock (1962).

The nomenclatural history of this species is rather complex. Forel (1915) stated that there were two species of Australian AphaenogasterHNS, longicepsHNS and ruginotaHNS, and listed differences between them. He then said "Sollte der Typus von Smith irgendwo zum Vorschein kommen und sich gegen meine Annahme als mit ruginotaHNS und nicht mit Mayr's Typen identisch erweisen, schlage ich fur letztere den Namen pythiaHNS n. sp. vor." ["Should the type of Smith appear somewhere and turn out identical, against my assumption, with ruginotaHNS and not with Mayr's [1862] types, I suggest for the latter the name pythiaHNS n. sp. "] (Mayr (1862) had described queens and males under the name longicepsHNS from four localities, Gayndah, Peak Downs, Rockhampton and Sydney.) To resolve the identity of longiceps WheelerHNS (1916) sent samples to H. Donisthorpe (British Museum (Natural History), London) for direct comparison with the Smith type of longicepsHNS. Wheeler (1916) reports that "[Donisthorpe] writes me that [Smith's] type is undoubtedly what Forel calls ruginotaHNS, and not what he calls longicepsHNS. Hence ruginotaHNS becomes a synonym of longiceps, SmithHNS, and the rarer Queensland form, Forel's longicepsHNS, which was unknown to Smith, must take the name pythia, ForelHNS." A few lines later Wheeler states that "Mayr probably confused both species" and that "... as [Mayr] introduced no new names his interpretation is now a matter of little moment." Finally, Wheeler lists the type locality for pythiaHNS as Herberton, one of the localities mentioned by Forel (1915) for specimens he examined under the name longicepsHNS. It seems clear that Wheeler (1916) interpreted Forel's name pythiaHNS as applying to material examined by Forel (1915) under the name longicepsHNS, and not to material examined by Mayr (1862) (although the comment "... and the rarer Queensland form" is puzzling as it seems to apply to pythiaHNS rather than longicepsHNS).

Smith (1961) next examined pythiaHNS during a study of Papua New Guinean species of AphaenogasterHNS. He states that "Forel 1915 assigned the provisional name pythiaHNS to the specimens studied by Mayr [1862] should they prove to be not longicepsHNS or any previous described species" and "Wheeler errored however in designating Herberton, Queensland, as the type locality of pythiaHNS as none of the specimens studied by Mayr came from there." Thus Smith (1961) interpreted Forel (1915) as establishing a new available name by indication for material referred to by Mayr (1862) and not for material identified as longicepsHNS by Forel (1915), as Wheeler (1916) had.

Of these two interpretations, Smith's (1961) is here accepted as the correct one. Given this, the type material for the name pythiaHNS becomes that examined by Mayr (1862). Unfortunately this material was destroyed during World War I (Smith 1961), leaving the name without extant type material. Thus it is currently impossible to know to what species the name pythiaHNS should be applied. Even without type material, essentially all authors since Wheeler (1916) have followed the concept developed by Wheeler (1916) for the species to which this name has been applied. This situation is certainly less than ideal and has the potential to cause considerable disruption to the nomenclature of this group. To resolve this confusion a neotype is here designated for Forel's A. pythiaHNS.

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 13 times found in Dry sclerophyll, 3 times found in Rainforest edge, 3 times found in Savannah woodland, 1 times found in sclerophyl forest, 3 times found in Open forest, 1 times found in Rainforest, grassed clearing, 1 times found in Dry sclerophyll, valley, 1 times found in Edge of rain forest, savannah, 1 times found in Eucalyptus maculata open forest, 1 times found in Valley, open sclerophyll, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 4 times Under log, 3 times Under rocks, 3 times Under rock, 1 times nest under stone, 3 times In soil, 1 times ground forager(s), 1 times Under volcanic rock, 1 times under rotten log, 1 times Taken at lights, 1 times Soil mounds, 1 times Reddish soil, diggings, ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 1 times search, 1 times direct collection.

Elevations: collected from 45 - 4000 meters, 698 meters average

Type specimens: neotype: anic32-031018; syntype of Aphaenogaster pythia: casent0907703

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