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Material examined. Holotype worker, " Afghanistan, Pashki Nuristan, 6.vi. (sic!) 48, leg. K. Paludan ";
paratypes: 2 workers and 1 queen (dealate, specimen without postpetiole and gaster), same labels as holotype (University Museum Copenhagen).
FIGURES 1-6. M. afghanicaHNS (holotype, worker): 1- head, frontal view, 2-alitrunk and waist in profile, 3-alitrunk and waist from above, 4-antennal scape in profile, 5-antennal scape from above, 6- tibia and first tarsal joint of hind leg.
Workers (Figs 1-6): Head long, with parallel sides, straight or very feebly concave occipital margin, and narrowly rounded occipital corners. Anterior clypeal margin prominent and pointed medially. Frontal carinae short, almost straight, not curving outwards to merge with the rugae, which surround antennal sockets. Frons wide, frontal lobes relatively narrow (see indices below). Antennal scape long and slender, very feebly curved at the base, without trace of angle or carina. Alitrunk dorsum feebly convex, metanotal groove very shallow. Propodeal spines short but sharp, projected backwards and upwards (at an angle about 45°). Petiole with long anterior peduncle, in profile petiolar node dorsum broadly rounded and postpetiole sub-globular.
Head dorsum having mostly a relatively coarse, longitudinal rugulosity, only the lateral parts and occiput having reticulation. Frons between frontal carinae level with the eyes with less than 13 rugae. Surfaces between rugae appearing shiny, being at most very finely, superficially sculptured. Promesonotal dorsum mostly longitudinally rugose, only anterior half of pronotum with coarse reticulation; sculpture on propodeal dorsum partly reduced; sides of alitrunk with longitudinal, slightly sinuous rugae. Petiolar and postpetiolar nodes with longitudinally-concentric rugae. Tibiae of hind and middle legs with well developed, pectinate spur. Quite hairy species. Antennal scape and legs with very abundant and long hairs that are almost erect on scape and sub-erect on legs; the longest hairs on antennal scape distinctly longer than maximal diameter of the scape. Body colour light brown to black, appendages yellowish brown.
Measurements (mm) and indices (data for holotype in parenthesis): HL 1.02-1.12 (1.06), HW 0.82-0.88 (0.84), FW 0.35-0.39 (0.36), FLW 0.37-0.40 (0.39), SL 0.82 - 0.86 (0.86), AL 1.42-1.52 (1.50), HTL 0.74-0.82 (0.76), PNW 0.60-0.63 (0.60), PL 0.40-0.41 (0.40), PW 0.23-0.24 (0.24), PH 0.30-0.33 (0.31), PPL 0.32-0.33 (0.33), PPW 0.36 (0.36), PPH 0.36-0.39 (0.36), ESL 0.19-0.23 (0.19), ESD 0.34 (0.34); CI 1.24-1.27 (1.26), FI 0.43-0.44 (0.43), FLI 1.03-1.06 (1.06), SI1 0.75-0.81 (0.81), SI2 0.95-1.02 (1.02), PI1 1.24-1.33 (1.32), PI2 0.47-0.49 (0.49), PPI1 0.85-0.92 (0.92), PPI2 1.00-1.08 (1.00), PPI3 1.50-1.56 (1.50), PPI4 0.41-0.44 (0.43), ESLI 0.23 -0.26 (0.23), ESDI 1.48-1.79 (1.79), HTI 0.45-0.47 (0.45).
Queen (specimen without postpetiole and gaster) (Figs 7-12): Relatively small compared to queens of many MyrmicaHNS species but proportionately larger than the workers (about 25% larger on both HW and AL). Otherwise the general features of shape, sculpture and pilosity are very similar to the workers. It differs from the workers by the slightly convex lateral margins of the head, and the following details of the body sculpture: just longitudinal rugae present on the head dorsum and alitrunk with no reticulation; only the petiolar node dorsum has any reticulation. Postpetiole and gaster most probably also very similar to those of workers.
Measurements (mm) and indices: HL 1. 26, HW 1.06, FW 0.45, FLW 0.47, SL 1.00, AL 1.88, HTL 1.00, PL 0.51, PW 0.33, PH 0.43, ESL 0.19, ESD 0.42; CI 1.19, FI 0.42, FLI 1.04, SI1 0.75, SI2 0.94, PI1 1.55, PI2 0.48, ESLI, 0.18, ESDI 2.21, HTI 0.47, AI 1.59, SCI 1.62.
Etymology. This species is named after Afghanistan where it is probably endemic.
Distribution and ecology. We cannot find Pashki Nuristan, but the most probable locality is Nurestan (34°56' N, 70°22' E) located in a river valley of the Hindu Kush, about 60 km north of Jaelaelaebad and 120 km northeast of Kabul. If we are correct and M afghanicaHNS is a member of the rubraHNS species-group (see below), then it might be distributed more widely in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, northwards into the adjacent territories of Tadzhikistan and the western slopes of the Pamirs. On the other hand, it could be a true Himalayan endemic belonging to the smythiesii-groupHNS (see below) either with a restricted local distribution or perhaps also living on the lower slopes of the Karakorum in Pakistan and northwest India. Nothing is known about its ecology but if we have truly identified the type locality, then it probably lives at lower altitudes (1000-2000m) where it is should be associated with river valleys.
FIGURES 7-12. M. afghanicaHNS (paratype, queen): 7-head, frontal view, 8- alitrunk and waist in profile, 9-alitrunk and waist from above, 10-antennal scape in profile, 11-antennal scape from above, 12-tibia and first tarsal joint of hind leg.
Taxonomic position and discussion. Until the features of the males of M. afghanicaHNS are described it is impossible to place it, with any certainty, in known MyrmicaHNS speciesgroups(see Radchenko and Elmes 2001). Based on the female castes M. afghanicaHNS could belong to either the rubra-groupHNS or the smythiesii-groupHNS. It is most similar to the species of the dshungarica-complexHNS of the rubraHNS species-group, which are distributed in Central Asia, and therefore, like M. tenuispinaHNS, it might have invaded Afghanistan from the north. On the other hand if it belongs to the smythiesii-groupHNS it is probably a true endemic of the region.
Workers and queens of the species in the rubra-HNS and smythiesii-groupsHNS are characterized by a long and slender antennal scape, which is gently curved at the base without any angle or carina, by their short, almost straight frontal carinae and wide frons (FI> 0.40) and quite narrow frontal lobes (FLI <1.15). Males from these groups are characterized by a quite long antennal scape, but the scape of rubra-groupHNS males is even longer than that of the smythiesii-groupHNS (Radchenko and Elmes 2001). Workers and queens are relatively small, like many other species in the rubra-groupHNS.
With the current knowledge M. afghanicaHNS can no longer be confused with M. tibetanaHNS despite M. tibetanaHNS being placed in the rubra-groupHNS by Radchenko (1994a). We considered this earlier opinion wrong and proposed that M. tibetanaHNS characterizes its own species-group(Radchenko and Elmes 2001) because it appears to have more in common with species from the scabrinodis-groupHNS rather than species from either the rubra-HNS or smythiesii-groupsHNS. For example, workers of the species belonging to the tibetana-groupHNS are characterized by frontal carinae curved at their anterior third and frontal lobes that are relatively wide and sub-square (FLI> 1.30 versus <1.15), features typically seen in scabrinodis-groupHNS species. Also the males of tibetana-groupHNS species have a short antennal scape like those of the scabrinodis-groupHNS. However, the scabrinodis-groupHNS clearly differs from the tibetana-groupHNS by its S-shaped frontal carinae that are curved from their midlength.
If M. afghanicaHNS is a member of the dshungarica-complexHNS (i.e. M. dshungaricaHNS, M. juglandetiHNS, M. ferganensisHNS and M. kryzhanovskiiHNS which mainly live in the Tien-Shan and Pamir Mountains - see Radchenko 1994a) then it most resembles M. kryzhanovskiiHNS. Both have long and abundant standing hairs on the legs and antennal scape but M. afghanicaHNS differs from M. kryzhanovskiiHNS by its prominent and medially-pointed anterior clypeal margin, by much shorter propodeal spines (ESLI 0.23-0.26 versus> 0.30) and by a relatively coarser longitudinal rugosity on the head dorsum (frons between frontal carinae level with the eyes with less than 13 rugae versus more than 15 in M. kryzhanovskiiHNS).
The other three species have much less abundant and shorter hairs on their legs and antennal scapes. M. afghanicaHNS also differs from M. dshungaricaHNS by the parallel sides of its head, as opposed to convex sides, by a much longer petiolar peduncle and by the distinctly concave anterior surface and rounded dorsum of the petiolar node, versus the steep anterior surface and distinctly flattened dorsum of the petiolar node seen in M. dshungaricaHNS. M. afghanica'sHNS prominent and pointed anteromedian clypeal margin well separates it from both M. juglandetiHNS and M. ferganensisHNS, which have less prominent and broadly-rounded anteromedian clypeal margins (see also Arnoldi 1976; Tarbinsky 1976; Radchenko 1994b).