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Cardiocondyla of Costa Rica

These tiny ants are under our feet all the time in the cities and towns of Costa Rica but are easily overlooked. They nest in the ground and in small plant cavities. They seem to do best around human activity, nesting between cracks in city sidewalks and foraging on the ground and on trunks of trees in town squares or other landscaped areas. They prefer areas with large expanses of bare ground, cement, or asphalt, and are rarely found in vegetated areas. They are easily transported by commerce, and species have been spread around the world in the tropics and subtropics. The center of diversity of the genus is the Old World tropics (Smith 1944, Creighton 1950, Seifert 2003), and all Costa Rican species are introduced.

One of the interesting features of this genus is that several species are known to have dimorphic males. Some males are typical winged males that disperse from the nest to mate with queens from other colonies. Other males are "ergatoid," meaning worker-like. They are wingless and never leave their natal nest. They are aggressive and fight among themselves to gain access to virgin queens produced by the same colony (Heinze 1999; Heinze and Hoelldobler 1993; Heinze and Trenkle 1997; Heinze et al. 1993, 1998; Kinomura and Yamauchi 1987; Stuart et al. 1987; Yamauchi and Kawase 1992).

I have to admit that I have a very poor knowledge of Cardiocondyla in Costa Rica because studying these ants often involves putting your nose to the pavement in highly public places. It can expose you to considerable public scrutiny and perhaps even derision, and your introversion/extroversion ratio can determine whether this is a painful or pleasurable experience. Studying Cardiocondyla also carries the risk of physical harm when the habitat under investigation is the side of a busy highway. Sniffing the gravel while being buffeted by the wind of passing trucks is decidedly disconcerting.

The taxonomy of the genus is in a much improved state thanks to the masterful revisionary work of Bernhard Seifert (2003).

Literature Cited

Creighton, W. S. 1950. The ants of North America. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 104:1-585.

Heinze, J. 1999. Male polymorphism in the ant Cardiocondyla minutior (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Entomologia Generalis 23:251-258.

Heinze, J., and B. Hšlldobler. 1993. Fighting for a harem of queens: physiology of reproduction in Cardiocondyla male ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 90:8412-8414.

Heinze, J., B. Hšlldobler, and K. Yamauchi. 1998. Male competition in Cardiocondyla ants. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 42:239-246.

Heinze, J., S. KŸhnholz, K. Schilder, and B. Hšlldobler. 1993. Behavior of ergatoid males in the ant, Cardiocondyla nuda. Insectes Sociaux 40:273-282.

Heinze, J., and S. Trenkle. 1997. Male polymorphism and gynandromorphs in the ant Cardiocondyla emeryi. Naturwissenschaften 84:129-131.

Kinomura, K., and K. Yamauchi. 1987. Fighting and mating behaviors of dimorphic males in the ant Cardiocondyla wroughtoni. Journal of Ethology 5:75-81.

Seifert, B. 2003. The ant genus Cardiocondyla (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae): A taxonomic revision of the C. elegans, C. bulgarica, C. batesii, C. nuda, C. shuckardi, C. stambuloffii, C. wroughtonii, C. emeryi, and C. minutior species groups. Annalen des Naturhistorischen Museums in Wien Serie B Botanik und Zoologie 104B:203-338.

Smith, M. R. 1944. Ants of the genus Cardiocondyla Emery in the United States. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 46:30-41.

Stuart, R. J., A. Francoeur, and R. Loiselle. 1987. Lethal fighting among dimorphic males of the ant, Cardiocondyla wroughtonii. Naturwissenschaften 74:548-549.

Yamauchi, K., and N. Kawase. 1992. Pheromonal manipulation of workers by a fighting male to kill his rival males in the ant Cardiocondyla wroughtonii. Naturwissenschaften 79:274-276.

Page author: John T. Longino longinoj@evergreen.edu

Date of this version: 16 May 2007.

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