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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Jun;31(3):880-93.

Phylogeny of ants (Formicidae) based on morphology and DNA sequence data.

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IRBI Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l'Insecte, CNRS UMR 6035, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques, 37200 Tours, France.


In order to reconstruct ants' phylogeny, we analysed DNA sequences for two nuclear genes, abdominal-A and Ultrabithorax, from 49 species of ants and two outgroups. As these genes control the development of the first segments of the abdomen in insects, which are very variable in ants (petiole, postpetiole, and gaster constriction), we hypothesized that the morphological variations between the subfamilies may be correlated with mutations of some abd-A or Ubx regions. Contrarily to our hypothesis, these sequences are highly conserved. The differences observed concern mainly third codon positions and present some saturation. Phylogenetic reconstructions were carried out using the genetic raw sequence data and by combining them with a set of morphological data (Total Evidence). Relations among subfamilies of ants remains poorly resolved with molecular data only, but adding these data to morphological characters confirms and reinforce the topology of : a Poneroid complex [Ponerinae, Cerapachyinae, Leptanillinae and army ants], a Formicoid complex [Dolichoderinae, Formicinae] and a Myrmecoid complex [Myrmicinae, Myrmeciinae, Pseudomyrmecinae, Nothomyrmeciinae]. Our molecular results allow resolution near the branch tips and three subfamilies (Dolichoderinae, Formicinae and Pseudomyrmecinae) always appear as monophyletic. The Formicinae and the Dolichoderinae have close relationships. The Camponotini appear as a strong clade inside the Formicinae. The Ponerinae are separated in two parts: the Ectatommini and all other tribes. The Cerapachyinae, Dorylinae, and Ecitoninae belong to the same clade, the Cerapachyinae being confirmed in their subfamily status. The Myrmicinae appears to be very heterogeneous, with the Attini forming a very stable and well-separated group.

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