Myrmica (Myrmica quebecensis)

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Myrmica quebecensis specimen, side view
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Myrmica fact file

Myrmica description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderHymenoptera
FamilyFormicidae
GenusMyrmica (1)

Originally described in 1981 (3), the ant species Myrmica quebecensis is a social parasite which lives inside the colonies of another ant species (4). The male’s cuticle is smooth and shiny on the front of its head and on the mandibles, the central and end portions of the thorax and the ‘postpetiole’, which is found between the waist and the final body segments. The head and the ‘petiole’, the thin segment at the ant’s waist, are wrinkly. Both sexes have soft hairs on the surface of the body, and the female is slightly larger than the male (2).

Myrmica quebecensis has morphological adaptations commonly seen in parasitic ant species, which makes it easily distinguishable from its host. These include a slightly reduced body size and a wider postpetiole segment (5) (6).

Size
Male length: 4.3 - 4.7 mm (2)
Female length: 5.7 - 6.1 mm (3)
Head width: c. 1.2 mm (3)
Head length: c. 1.3 mm (3)
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Myrmica biology

Myrmica quebecensis eggs only develop into male and female sexual ants and, unlike most other ants, this species has no worker caste (2) (4) (6). A social parasite, Myrmica quebecensis lives inside the colony of another ant species (4). The targeted host is Myrmica alaskensis, and Myrmica quebecensis is entirely dependent on the host’s queen to produce non-sexual worker ants (4). The host workers are then responsible for raising the sexual Myrmica quebecensis parasites (6).

Myrmica quebecensishas a normal developmental cycle. The larva hatches from an egg and then spends the winter in diapause. Development continues towards the end of May when the conditions are more favourable, and the young adult Myrmica quebecensis emerges at the start of July (2).

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Myrmica range

Myrmica quebecensis is native to Canada (1). Its host species, Myrmica alaskensis, is distributed throughout Canada and Alaska, and it is therefore thought Myrmica quebecensis may have a more widespread distribution than currently known (3). It has recently been found north of La Sarre, in Jamésie, Quebec (5).

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Myrmica habitat

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Myrmica status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Myrmica threats

The precise threats to Myrmica quebecensis are not known. However, habitat loss, and deforestation due to logging, wildfires and disease are a major concern in the boreal forests of Canada which this species inhabits (7).

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Myrmica conservation

There are no known conservation projects currently in place for Myrmica quebecensis.

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Find out more

More information on the conservation of ants and other insects:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Boreal forest
The sub-Arctic forest of the high northern latitudes that surrounds the North Pole and is mainly composed of coniferous trees.
Cuticle
In arthropods, the outer, chitinous layer of the exoskeleton.
Diapause
In insects, a temporary pause in development and growth with a definite physiological basis. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Larva
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
Mandibles
The pair of mouthparts most commonly used for seizing and cutting food, common to the centipedes, millipedes and insects.
Morphological
Referring to the visible or measurable characteristics of an organism.
Parasite
An organism that derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism at the host’s expense.
Parasitic
Describes an organism that derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism at the host’s expense.
Thorax
Part of the body located between the head and the abdomen in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs. In vertebrates the thorax contains the heart and the lungs.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Francoeur, A. and Loiselle, R. (1984) Description du male et notice sur la biologie de Myrmica quebecensis Francoeur (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). Revue d’Entomologie du Quebec, 29: 3-11.
  3. Francoeur, A. (1981) Le groupe Nearctique Myrmica lampra (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). The Canadian Entomologist, 113: 755-759.
  4. Jansen, G., Savolainen, R. and Vepsalainen, K. (2010) Phylogeny, divergence-time estimation, biogeography and social parasite-host relationships of the Holarctic ant genus Myrmica (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 56: 294-304.
  5. Francoeur, A. (2011) Extension de l’aire connue de la fourmi Myrmica quebecensis (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). Le Naturaliste Canadien, 135(2): 24-25.
  6. Jansen, G. (2009) Phylogenetics of Myrmica ants and their social parasites. Academic Dissertations, University of Helsinki, Finland.
  7. Gorte, R.W. and Sheikh, P.A. (2010) Congressional Research Service: Deforestation and Climate Change. Congressional Research Service, USA.
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Image credit

Myrmica quebecensis specimen, side view  
Myrmica quebecensis specimen, side view

© April Nobile / CAS / www.antweb.org

AntWeb
antweb@calacademy.org
http://www.antweb.org

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