Research Highlight

New ant species discovered in the eastern Himalayas

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.87 Published online 20 June 2021

Zoologists from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) in Bangalore, India have discovered two new species of small-colony-forming ants in the hilly forests of Mizoram.

The discovery marks the first record of the Myrmecina genus from the state, the researchers say. 

Myrmecina bawai

© Aswaj, P. et al.

These ants live in hidden habitats — under stones, decaying wood and leaf litters. The scientists, led by Dharma Rajan Priyadarsanan, laid out pitfall and Winkler traps in the Phawngpui National Park and the Dampa Tiger Reserve. While cleaning and sorting ant specimens under the microscope, they detected specific morphological features that revealed the presence of two distinct ant species.

One of the species, named Myrmecina bawai, has a yellow-coloured hairy body with dark tinge. Named after Kamaljit S. Bawa, an evolutionary ecologist and founder of ATREE, M. bawai has small eyes with erect hairs on different body parts. It also has smooth and shiny legs.

“We discovered two worker ants of M. bawai each in two pitfall traps 200 apart at an altitude of 2157 m above sea level in the Phawngpui National Park,” says Priyadarsanan. 

Myrmecina reticulata

Aswaj, P. et al.

The other species, named Myrmecina reticulata due to presence of a remarkable and unique reticulate sculpture on its abdomen, has a hairy body of blackish brown colour.

The M. reticulata specimen was found in Winkler traps at an elevation of 409 m above sea level in the tiger reserve, the researchers note.


References

1. Aswaj, P. et al. Description of two new species of ants of the genus Myrmecina Curtis, 1829 (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae) from the Eastern Himalayas. Zootaxa. 4990, 160-171 (2021)