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).
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 quebecensisparasites(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).
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).
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).
The sub-Arctic forest of the high northern latitudes that surrounds the North Pole and is mainly composed of coniferous trees.
In arthropods, the outer, chitinous layer of the exoskeleton.
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.
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.
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.
The pair of mouthparts most commonly used for seizing and cutting food, common to the centipedes, millipedes and insects.
Referring to the visible or measurable characteristics of an organism.
An organism that derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism at the host’s expense.
Describes an organism that derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism at the host’s expense.
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.
Francoeur, A. and Loiselle, R. (1984) Description du male et notice sur la biologie de Myrmica quebecensis Francoeur (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). Revued’Entomologie du Quebec, 29: 3-11.
Francoeur, A. (1981) Le groupe Nearctique Myrmica lampra (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). The Canadian Entomologist,113: 755-759.
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.
Francoeur, A. (2011) Extension de l’aire connue de la fourmi Myrmica quebecensis (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). Le Naturaliste Canadien, 135(2): 24-25.
Jansen, G. (2009) Phylogenetics of Myrmica ants and their social parasites. Academic Dissertations, University of Helsinki, Finland.
Gorte, R.W. and Sheikh, P.A. (2010) Congressional Research Service: Deforestation and Climate Change. Congressional Research Service, USA.
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