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Costa Rica (La Selva).
Holldobler and Wilson (1992) report the following observations of the single known collection of this species:
The type colony was found nesting in a round mass of dried, thatch-like vegetation about 1.5 meters up in the moderately dense foliage of a small tree, which was located at the edge of a second-growth forest bordering the open experimental fields of the la Selva station. When the nest was disturbed, more than a hundred major and minor workers of P. nasutoides rushed out and ran in erratic looping patterns to form a spreading wave away from the nest. The resemblance of the majors to Nasutitermes nasute soldiers under similar circumstances was remarkable. In particular, the mask of the Pheidole majors is roughly shaped like that of the nasute termites and contrasts with the light remainder of the body in the same way. The illusion was heightened when the ants were in motion, creating a Nasutitermes-like gestalt. Holldobler, who discovered the nest, in fact first thought that the ants were Nasutitermes and nearly passed them by. During the brief time the colony was observed live in the laboratory, the resemblance remained close. Otherwise, the colony seemed typical for a species of Pheidole. Adult males were present, but neither alate nor dealate queens were recovered.
We remain puzzled by our failure to locate other P. nasutoides nests despite prolonged effort in the La Selva area. It is possible that the species is simply very rare, existing in extremely sparse populations. Alternatively, it may be normally a dweller of the high canopy, a zone we did not explore. The nest found was at the edge of a disturbed forest patch, and might have fallen from a higher location.
In spite of additional intensive collecting of ants at La Selva by Longino and Project ALAS, this species has not been subsequently collected.
Holldobler, B., and E. O. Wilson. 1992. Pheidole nasutoides, a new species of Costa Rican ant that apparently mimics termites. Psyche 99:15-22.
Etymology Compound Greek and Latin ("like nasute"), referring to resemblance of the major to a Nasutitermes soldier.
Diagnosis A medium-sized member of the flavensHNS group, whose major possesses 2 teeth (as opposed to the usual 4 or 5) on the hypostoma; uniquely bicolorous head (see below); promesonotum perfectly semicircular in side view and subangular in dorsal-oblique view. Also, the minor is unusual in its narrow occiput with nuchal collar.
Similar to defectaHNS of Guatemala (known only from the major caste and placed tentatively in the piliferaHNS group), differing in the shape of promesonotal and propodeal spine, sculpturing, and color.
Measurements (mm) Holotype major: HW 0.80, HL 0.78, SL 0.50, EL 0.12, PW 0.34. Paratype minor: HW 0.48, HL 0.54, SL 0.54, EL 0.10, PW 0.32.
Color Major: color medium yellow, except for a light brown "mask" as depicted in the figure; the intensity and shape of the mask varies considerably among the major workers in the type series. Minor: concolorous medium yellow.
Range Known only from the type series. Repeated attempts by Holldobler and Wilson (see 1992) and J. T. Longino (1997) to discover additional colonies at and around the type locality have been unsuccessful, suggesting that the species is either very rare or a relatively inaccessible canopy dweller.
biology The type colony was found in a round mass of dried, thatch-like vegetation about 1.5 meters from the ground in the moderately dense foliage of a small tree at the border of open experimental fields of the La Selva Biological Station. When the nest was disturbed, more than a hundred major and minor workers rushed out and ran in erratic looping patterns to form a spreading wave away from the nest. The resemblance of the majors to NasutUermes nasute soldiers similarly provoked was remarkable. In particular, the mask of the P. nasutoidesHNS majors is roughly shaped like the head of the nasute termites and contrasts with the light remainder of the body in the same way (Holldobler and Wilson 1992).
Figure Upper: holotype, major. Lower: paratype, minor. COSTA RICA: La Selva Biological Station, near Puerto Viejo, Fferedia (Bert Holldobler). Scale bars = 1 mm.
Found most commonly in these habitats: 2 times found in lowland rainforest, 1 times found in pasture/cloud forest edge, 1 times found in mature wet forest, 1 times found in SAT, 1 times found in CC 1200m.
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 1 times beating veg., 1 times Malaise trap, 1 times ex sifted leaf litter, 1 times copa de árbol, 1 times ALAS canopy fogging of Pentaclethra macroloba (Fabaceae).
Collected most commonly using these methods: 1 times beating, 1 times search, 4 times Fogging, 1 times Malaise trap, 1 times miniWinkler.
Elevations: collected from 50 - 970 meters, 392 meters average