The Ants of Africa
Genus Aphomomyrmex
Aphomomyrmex afer Emery
Contents - Formicinae - FORMICINAE Introduction

Aphomomyrmex afer Emery

return to key {link to the Hymenoptera Name Server} Type location Cameroun (Aphomomyrmex afer n. sp., Emery, 1899e: 494, all stages, illustrated) collected by Conradt and L. von Muralt
Junior synonym muralti (Aphomomyrmex Muralti n. sp.,Forel, 1910e: 449, worker only; synonymy by Snelling, 1979b) from South Africa, Natal, Dr L von Muralt. A specimen is pictured by Hölldobler & Wilson (1990, page 133); all forms known. ; see Bolton, 1995) .

{short description of image} {Aphomomyrmex afer}Emery's (1899e) description is at {original description} and for the sexual stages at {original description}. Forel's (1910e) description of muralti is at {original description}. Arnold (1920a) gave a translation of the descriptions by Emery (1899e) and Forel (1910e) for muralti - this is at {original description}.

Essentially - the colour is black, with appendages rusty red, the scape paler; generally very shining and smooth, finely puncturate on the sides of the head, thorax and gaster. Fine greyish pubescence on thorax and gaster; also a few pilous hairs.
Head subquadrate, a little narrower in front, posterior angles rounded, the eyes placed in the middle of the sides, with three ocelli forming a large triangle.

{Aphomomyrmex afer}WORKER - HL 0.605-0.992 mm, HW 0.348-0.547; SL 0.333-0.531 - these ranges, as determined in a specific study by Meunier et al. (1999), together with their observation that the overall morphology was constant across the size range, do not support the description by Snelling (1979b) of the species as being "polymorphic". Mandible with 5-6 teeth on apical margin, basal tooth greatly offset. Median lobe of clypeus, broader than long, moderately convex longitudinally and transversely; apical margin projecting slightly. Antennal scape not reaching occipital margin. Occipital margin broadly and weakly concave; concavity most pronounced in smallest workers. Alitrunk wider than long; convex in profile, with abrupt descent into metanotal groove. Propodeum broader than long, sides gently convex; declivity flat in profile, twice as long as dorsum; spiracle large. Petiole node a scale. Acidopore with conspicuous long fringe.

The photomontage is collated and slightly enhanced from the site at Collection Information: Specimen Code CASENT0101212; Locality Cameroon: [Ndian Dist:. The Rack, Korup For. Res.; D. McKay, coll, Ex Leonardoxa africana]; Collection codes: ANTC3231; Date: 8 Feb 1979; Collected by: D. McKey

Closely related to Petalomyrmex phylax, the only other African member of the Tribe. Both ant species are inhabitants of subspecies of the forest understorey tree Leonardoxa africana and have been extensively studied by Doyle McKey and colleagues - see McKey studies for details and reference list. In Cameroun, A. afer primarily occupies the L. africana subspecies letouzeyi (ssp L3 or T3 in earlier papers), but it also has been found, albeit much more rarely, in hollow twigs of another myrmecophyte Vitex grandifolia. In L. africana letouzeyi, A. afer tends homopterans inside the domatia (specialised "ant cavities"). The homopterans have been identified as a coccid, Houardia abdita, and/or a pseudococcid, Paraputo anomla.

The subspecies letouzeyi McKey (2000) of L. africana is described as occurring in the wettest forests of Africa, the lowland forests near the Bight of Biafra, running east from Uwet Division in Calabar Province, Nigeria, across the border into western Cameroun, essentially in the dark understorey of wet, cloudy forest.

In his catalogue, Wheeler (1922) listed both species afer and muralti; citing also Arnold (1920a). To me, the highly specialised life style suggests that afer from Cameroun and muralti from Natal, South Africa, are indeed separate species but, as yet I know too little of the distribution of Vitex grandifolia.

Snelling (1979b) considered the question of muralti, examining the type and two specimens Forel had seen from Cameroun. Snelling also examined females from various localities and decided that muralti was not significantly different from afer. The Forel specimens from Cameroun had been collected by van Muralt and although noticeably hairy, punctate and larger, were more logically afer. Snelling also noticed that the holotype specimen of "muralti" had "Natal (v. Muralt)" on the identification label but in a different hand to the identification. Snelling thought it conceivable that the "Natal" was an error. As my name index shows, L. von Muralt's name was given to Crematogaster muralti and Tetramorium muralti - both were collected in Cameroun and both were first described by Forel (1910e, and 1910d, respectively). Snelling listed seeing specimens from Cameroun - the Conradt and Von Muralt collections; plus a modern collection - at Nkoe-Mvone, by C. Collingwood, 5.ix.1968; from Gabon, I. Lieberburg, x.1972; Zaire, Ross & Leech, at 50 km s of Tahela, and 24 m N.E. of Lubefu. Outside of West Africa and the Congo Basin, the sole specimen was the mysterious Natal example. As I have not seen any mention of von Muralt other than Cameroun, I agree with Snelling that the "Natal" label is simply wrong.
© 2007, 2011 - Brian Taylor CBiol FSB FRES
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