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Australian ant species proves to represent a hyper-diverse group

Over 30 species are nested under the name Melophorus hirsutipes, hinting at Australia's immense undescribed ant diversity.


Various representatives of the diversity displaying a range of sculpturing.
Various representatives of the diversity displaying a range of sculpturing. Andersen et al., 2023.

The Northern monsoonal, or tropical regions of Australia are now known to hold extreme levels of ant diversity, but much of that diversity has yet to be uncovered. A new study by Alan N. Andersen, François Brassard, and Benjamin D. Hoffmann investigates the name Melophorus hirsutipes, a widespread "species" across mainland Australia that displays incredible variation. By integrating morphological and distributional variation with phylogenetic insight, they conclude that there are over 30 species that represent the Melophorus hirsutipes species group.


Australia's population of people is very restricted and coastal, and as a result, much of the continent's land has been poorly sampled. Melophorus hirsutipes has been described with various forms of sculpturing, with the more densely sculptured, often rugose populations being within the tropics; this form alone represents 16 or more species. Even the shiny form various greatly genetically throughout the continent, with one being unrelated to the rest of the group both genetically and visually. The new species are not formally described, but future research may help solidify them taxonomically along with many other Australian taxa.



Specimen collection points across Australia.
Specimen collection points across Australia. Andersen et al., 2023.
Phylogeny tree showing clades and outgroups.
Phylogeny tree showing clades and outgroups. Andersen et al., 2023.

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