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Mexico to Panama. Costa Rica: widespread.
The taxonomy and biology of this species is reviewed in Longino (1996). More recent studies of the relationship between Cordia alliodora and Azteca pittieri are Tillberg (2004), and Trager & Bruna (2006).
This species is the dominant inhabitant of the ant plant Cordia alliodora. Most Cordia alliodora plants in Costa Rica harbor colonies of A. pittieri. Founding queens can be found alone in Cordia nodes and never seem to found pleometrotically. Colonies are apparently monogynous, with workers, brood, and coccoid Hemiptera dispersed in nodes throughout the tree. Workers are aggressive and forage on the surface of the host tree, but do not generally forage off the host tree.
A set of collections of A. pittieri have been made from understory Lauraceae. I collected workers from small trees (either Ocotea or Licaria) at Tortuguero, and workers and alate queens from Ocotea nicaraguensis at Carara Biological Reserve. These were dispersed in live branch tips, with general colony structure and behavior much like the colonies in Cordia. INBio Parataxonomists collected isolated queens at Rancho Quemado on the Osa Peninsula.
The collections from Lauraceae are probably a distinct species, and I use the morphospecies code JTL-007 for them, but I cannot identify any morphological characters that distinguish them from the Cordia-inhabiting A. pittieri. The mandibles tend to be somewhat more setose, with larger and more abundant piligerous puncta compared to the specimens from Cordia. On some workers there are a few short setae on the side of the head posterior to eye, and the general surface pubescence is more abundant and longer. All other characters fall well within the range of variation for the Cordia specimens.
In Costa Rica, the queens of the Cordia-inhabiting A. pittieri cluster into two size classes (Fig. 4B). Smaller queens are from the Pacific lowlands, up to about 500m elevation. Larger queens occur at higher elevations on the Pacific slope, throughout the Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica, and the scattered collections from further north in Central America and southern Mexico, including the type of A. patruelis (synonymized under pittieri in Longino ). Given that the two forms are parapatric and appear to have identical natural history, I am reluctant to consider them distinct species until additional collections and characters are examined.
Variation in queen propodeal pilosity is discordant with head shape. Queens from the Pacific side of Costa Rica, regardless of queen head shape, have dense pilosity on the propodeum. Queens from La Selva on the Atlantic slope have sparser propodeal pilosity, and it varies from a uniform covering to a discontinuous covering, with a few setae near the mesopropodeal suture, a gap with no setae, and a cluster of setae posterior to the spiracle. La Selva queens with the relatively shortest heads are indistinguishable from two queens collected from Hone Creek south of Limon, and these relatively small queens exhibit the extreme of propodeal pilosity reduction. Relatively larger queens tend to have more uniform propodeal pilosity.
The types of A. patruelis were sent to Forel by Wheeler, and Wheeler (1942:15) provided additional notes on the specimens. They were sent to Wheeler by C. H. Tyler Townsend, who collected them near Cualata, on the slopes of Volc‡n de Colima, Mexico, in Cordia alliodora. The ants kept large red lecanoid coccids in the nest.
|Azteca||Longino, J. T., 2007, A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group., Zootaxa 1491, pp. 1-63: 8-10, (download)||8-10||21311|
|Azteca pittieri||Longino, J. T., 2007, A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group., Zootaxa 1491, pp. 1-63: 43-45, (download)||43-45||21311||GoogleMaps|
|Azteca pittieri||sp. n.||Forel, A., 1899, Biologia Centrali-Americana; or, contributions to the knowledge of the fauna and flora of Mexico and Central America. Insecta. Hymenoptera. 3 (Formicidae)., London: Unknown Publisher: 120-121, (download)||120-121||8170|
Found most commonly in these habitats: 10 times found in 2nd growth dry forest, 2 times found in La Selva, 4 times found in tropical dry forest, 1 times found in STR 2250, 2 times found in STR 2100, 2 times found in Huertos plot, 1 times found in STR 2050, 1 times found in river edge, 1 times found in roadside, 1 times found in Huertos, ...
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 22 times ex Cordia alliodora, 3 times second growth veg., 7 times scrubby veg; in Cordia alliodora, 1 times crowns of felled trees, 2 times Cordia alliodora, 1 times Roadside veg. Ex Cordia alliodora. Foundress queens from basal shoots of trunk., 2 times Roadside veg. Ex Cordia alliodora tree. Abundant workers, males, alate queens in, 1 times Roadside veg. Ex Cordia alliodora node., No. 211, Mexico, colln T. Pergande times label, 1 times Roadside veg. Ex Cordia alliodora. Small tree, bush-like, with many lone queens, 2 times Roadside veg. Ex Cordia alliodora. Azteca with carton, homoptera in nodes. 5.5k, ...
Collected most commonly using these methods: 37 times search, 4 times Malaise, 1 times baiting, 1 times hand collecting, 1 times Sweeping.
Elevations: collected from 5 - 840 meters, 331 meters average
Type specimens: syntype of Azteca pittieri: casent0903018, casent0909665; syntype of Azteca longiceps patruelis: casent0909648, casent0909649; syntype of Azteca pittieri emarginatisquamis: casent0909666; types Azteca patruelis: jtl132057