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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 9;8(7):e68082. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068082. Print 2013.

How much variation can one ant species hold? Species delimitation in the Crematogaster kelleri-group in Madagascar.

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Department of Entomology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, United States of America.


We investigated the species-level taxonomy of the Malagasy Crematogaster (Crematogaster) kelleri-group and an additional more distantly related species of the same subgenus. Morphological data from worker, queen and male ants, as well as genetic data from three nuclear genes (long wavelength rhodopsin, arginine kinase and carbomoylphosphate synthase) and one mitochondrial marker (cytochrome oxidase I) led to the recognition of six species. Within the C. kelleri-group, three new species are described: C. hazolava Blaimer sp. n., C. hafahafa Blaimer sp. n. and C. tavaratra Blaimer sp. n. The previously described taxa C. kelleri Forel and C. madagascariensis André are validated by our analysis. Conversely, our data suggests synonymy of C. adrepens Forel (with C. kelleri) and C. gibba Emery (with C. madagascariensis). A more distantly related and phylogenetically isolated species, C. tsisitsilo Blaimer sp. n., is further described. We report high levels of morphological and molecular variation in C. kelleri and illustrate that this variation can be explained partly by geography. Species descriptions, images, distribution maps and identification keys based on worker ants, as well as on queen and male ants where available, are presented for all six species. Our work highlights the elevated species richness of Crematogaster ants throughout Madagascar's humid forests, especially in the far northern tip of the island, and the need to use multiple data sources to ensure clear demarcation of this diversity.

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