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Ants in Australia

Myrmecia pilosula groupThe ant fauna of Australia is especially large and diverse. World-wide, there are 16 subfamilies, about 300 genera and about 15,000 described species and subspecies of ants. Australia is currently known to have representatives of 10 subfamilies, 101 genera and 1275 described species and subspecies.

While the numbers of Australian subfamilies and genera are unlikely to increase significantly, the number of species may well double as species-level studies are completed. Thus Australia currently has representatives of two-thirds of the world’s ant subfamilies, one-third of its genera and, as far as we know, about 15% of its species. A few of the genera found in Australia occur nowhere else, and many are shared with only its closest neighbours. Most of the species, however, are limited to Australia with only a minority occurring in both Australia and neighbouring regions.

Australia compares well with other regions of the world in terms of number of genera and species, and in the number of groups which are unique to the region. Australia has fewer genera than Central and South America and South-east Asia (i.e. Malaysia to New Guinea), about the same number as the Orient (i.e. Pakistan to Vietnam), and more than North America, Europe and northern Asia and Africa. Central and South America and Africa have the largest Dolichoderus sp.number of genera limited to a single region, South-east Asia and Australia have about the same number of restricted genera, and Europe and northern Asia, North America and the Orient have the fewest unique genera. When comparing species, Australia has fewer than Central and South America, Africa or South-east Asia, about the same number as Europe or northern Asia, and more than North America or the Orient. For additional details, see Bolton (1995).

Literature Cited/Additional Reading
Bolton, B. 1995. A taxonomic and zoogeographical census of the extant ant taxa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Natural History 29: 1037-1056.

 

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