Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access


Systematics of the Monomorium rothsteini Forel species complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), a problematic ant group in Australia



A recent molecular, morphological and distributional analysis of Monomorium rothsteini demonstrated that it comprises many separately evolving lineages that could be recognised morphologically and/or genetically based on mitochondrial DNA sequences. Based on these results M. rothsteini is revised, resulting in four species being brought out of synonymy (M. bogischi Wheeler, M. leda Forel, M. humilior Forel and M. subapterum Wheeler) and 18 new species recognised: M. broschorum n. sp., M. capeyork n. sp., M. eremoides n. sp., M. eremum n. sp., M. geminum n. sp., M. hertogi n. sp., M. hoffmanni n. sp., M. kidman n. sp., M. maryannae n. sp., M. merepah n. sp., M. mitchell n. sp., M. oodnadatta n. sp., M. pilbara n. sp., M. speculum n. sp., M. stagnum n. sp., M. tenebrosum n. sp., M. topend n. sp., M. torrens n. sp. Monomorium rothsteini v. doddi Santschi is recognised as a valid synonomy of M. rothsteini s.str. Along with M. rothsteini Forel s. str., there are now 23 described species in the complex, however it likely comprises many more species given the number of additional CO1 lineages and morphotypes that remain unresolved due to incomplete data. Biological notes are provided as well as a key to workers, descriptions, images and distribution maps for each species.



integrative taxonomy, Myrmicinae, COI barcoding, morphology, seed-harvesting, Australia

Full Text:

PDF/A (10.87 MB)


Andersen, A.N. (1991a) Sampling communities of ground-foraging ants: pitfall catches compared with quadrat counts in an Australian tropical savanna. Australian Journal of Ecology, 16, 273–279.

Andersen, A.N. (1991b) Responses of ground-foraging ant communities to three experimental fire regimes in a savannah forest of tropical Australia. Biotropica, 23, 575–585.

Andersen, A.N., Blum, M.S. & Jones, T.M. (1991) Venom alkaloids in Monomoriumrothsteini’ Forel repel other ants: is this the secret to success by Monomorium in Australian ant communities? Oecologia, 88, 157–160.

Andersen, A.N. (1992) Regulation of 'momentary' diversity by dominant species in exceptionally rich ant communities of the Australian seasonal tropics. American Naturalist, 140, 401–420.

Andersen, A.N. (1993) Ant communities in the Gulf region of Australia's semi-arid tropics: species composition, patterns of organization, and biogeography. Australian Journal of Zoology, 41, 399–414.

Andersen, A. N., Arnan, X. & Sparks, K. (2013) Limited niche differentiation within remarkable co-occurrences of congeneric species: Monomorium ants in the Australian seasonal tropics. Austral Ecology, 38, 557–567.

Andersen, A.N., Azcárate, F.M. & Cowie, I.D. (2000) Seed selection by an exceptionally rich community of harvester ants in the Australian seasonal tropics. Journal of Animal Ecology, 69, 975–984.

Andersen, A.N. & Clay, R.E. (1996) The ant fauna of Danggali Conservation Park in semi-arid South Australia: a comparison with Wyperfeld (Vic.) and Cape Arid (W.A.) National Parks. Australian Journal of Entomology, 35, 289–295.

Andersen, A.N., Hoffmann, B.D. & Somes, J. (2003) Ants as indicators of mine site restoration: community recovery at one of eight rehabilitation sites in central Queensland mine. Ecological Management and Restoration, 4, S12–S19.

Andersen A. N., Lanoue J. & Radford I. (2010) The ant fauna of the remote Mitchell Falls area of tropical north-western Australia: biogeography, environmental relationships and conservation significance. Journal of Insect Conservation, 14, 647–661.

Andersen, A.N. & Morrison, S. (1998) Myrmecochory in Australia’s seasonal tropics: effects of disturbance on distance dispersal. Australian Journal of Ecology, 23, 483–491.

Andersen, A.N. & Spain, A.V. (1996) The ant fauna of the Bowen Basin, in the semi-arid tropics of central Queensland. Australian Journal of Entomology, 35, 213–221.

Briese, D.T. (1983) Different modes of reproductive-behaviour (including a description of colony fission) in a species of Chelaner (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux, 30, 308–316.

Forel, A. (1902) Fourmis nouvelles d’Australie. Revue Suisse de Zoologie, 10, 405–408.

Forel, A. (1910) Formicides australiens reçs de M. M. Frogatt et Rowland Turner. Revue Suisse de Zoologie, 18, 1–94.

Forel, A. (1915) Results of Dr Mjӧberg's Swedish Scientific Expeditions to Australia 1910-1913. 2. Ameisen. Arkiv für Zoologi, 9 (16), 1–119.

Harris, R. A. (1979) A glossary of surface sculpturing. Occasional papers in Entomology, 28, 1–31.

Heterick, B.E. (2001) Revision of the Australian ants of the genus Monomorium (Hymenoptera : Formicidae). Invertebrate Taxonomy, 15, 353–459.

Hoffmann, B.D. (2000) Changes in ant species composition and community organisation along grazing gradients in semi-arid rangelands of the Northern Territory. Rangeland Journal, 22, 171–189.

Jones, T.H., Andersen, A.N. & Kenny, J.C. (2009) Venom alkaloid chemistry of Australian species of the Monomorium rothsteini complex, with particular reference to taxonomic implications. Chemistry & Biodiversity, 6, 1034–1041.

Santschi, F. (1919) Cinq notes myrmécologiques. Bulletin de la Sociéte Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles, 52, 325–350.

Sparks, K.S., Andersen, A.N., Donnellan, S.C. & Austin, A.D. (2014) Navigating the mtDNA road map out of the morphological maze: interpreting morphological variation in the diverse Monomorium rothsteini (Forel) complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Systematic Entomology, 39, 264–278.

Ward, P.S., Brady, S.G., Fisher, B.L. & Schultz, T.R. (2014) The evolution of myrmicine ants: phylogeny and biogeography of a hyperdiverse ant clade (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Systematic Entomology. [online Version]

Wheeler, W.M. (1917) The development of subapterous and apterous castes in the Formicidae. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 3, 109–117.

Woinarski, J.C.Z., Andersen, A.N., Churchill, T.B. & Ash, A. (2002) Response of ant and terrestrial spider assemblages to pastoral and military land use, and to landscape position, in a tropical savanna woodland in northern Australia. Austral Ecology, 27, 324–333.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 1175-5326 (Print Edition) & ISSN 1175-5334 (Online Edition)
Published by Magnolia Press, Auckland, New Zealand
A founding journal of Biotaxa