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Taiwan's new invasive trap-jaw ant

Previously only known from Africa, Odontomachus troglodytes has now made the journey to Taiwan and established itself as an invasive.

O. monticola (left), and O. troglodytes (right) workers. Lin et al., 2023.

A number of invasive ants have historically been documented in Taiwan, but new ones still pop up—a common trend worldwide today. Taiwan is home to a single native trap-jaw species in the genus Odontomachus, Odontomachus monticola, a member of the Odontomachus rixosus group widespread in Southeast Asia. However, amateur ant enthusiasts discovered a new species in 2017 that began flourishing. It turned out to be a member of the Odontomachus haematodus group, mostly represented by neotropical species but including the Asian species Odontomachus simillimus.

In a February study, researchers described the process of identifying the invasive, and their findings. O. simillimus was initially suspected as the species is already widespread in Asia, but it soon became clear that it was not a match. The metasternal process suggested that Odontomachus haematodus or O. troglodytes are much closer. Due to the lack of a clear origin point, and the difficulty and unreliability of differentiating the two candidates solely through morphology, genetics were utilized. It turned out that O. troglodytes is a 100% match.

This situation is resemblant to the introductions of O. haematodus to areas in North America such as the Florida Panhandle and Houston, Texas. Inevitably, O. troglodytes may end up becoming a nuisance to humans in Taiwan as O. haematodus has accordingly done, but it is unclear how much of an ecological impact there will be.


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