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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Jul;32(1):198-206.

Recent speciation in the Formica rufa group ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae): inference from mitochondrial DNA phylogeny.

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  • 1Department of Conservation Biology and Genetics, EBC, Uppsala University, Norbyv√§gen 18D, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden.


This study examines phylogenetic relationships among six species of the Formica rufa group ants (F. polyctena, F. rufa, F. lugubris, F. paralugubris, F. aquilonia, and F. pratensis). The phylogeny based on a 2051bp fragment of mtDNA including cyt b, tRNASer, and ND1 genes supports the division of the group into three major clusters: one with the species F. polyctena and F. rufa, one with F. aquilonia, F. lugubris, and F. paralugubris, and the third one with F. pratensis. The interspecific divergence estimates (mean 0.98 +/- 0.15% for the main phylogenetic groups) imply that radiation took place during the Pleistocene. Comparison of the divergence estimates among the F. rufa group species with divergence estimates among other closely related species of insects suggests that speciation in the group was relatively fast, and the mitochondrial lineages of F. polyctena and F. rufa have not fully separated. The haplotype tree shows also signs of transfer of mtDNA between species through hybridisation. The distribution of polygyny (multiple queens per nest) along the branches of the tree indicates that the social type characterised by highly polygynous societies and large colonial networks, has originated at least three times. The species F. aquilonia and F. paralugubris that build such large supercolonies, cluster tightly together with very little nucleotide variation, suggesting that this type of social organisation could be a factor promoting speciation in the ants.

Copyright 2003 Elsevier Inc.

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