Deep time extinction of largest insular ant predators and the first fossil Neoponera (Formicidae: Ponerinae) from Miocene age Dominican amber

Gianpiero Fiorentino, John Lattke, Adrian Troya, Christine Sosiak, Minsoo Dong, Phillip Barden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Ponerine ants are almost exclusively predatory and comprise many of the largest known ant species. Within this clade, the genus Neoponera is among the most conspicuous Neotropical predators. We describe the first fossil member of this lineage: a worker preserved in Miocene-age Dominican amber from Hispaniola. Results: Neoponera vejestoria sp. nov. demonstrates a clear case of local extinction—there are no known extant Neoponera species in the Greater Antilles. The species is attributable to an extant and well-defined species group in the genus, which suggests the group is older than previously estimated. Through CT scan reconstruction and linear morphometrics, we reconstruct the morphospace of extant and fossil ants to evaluate the history and evolution of predatory taxa in this island system. Conclusions: The fossil attests to a shift in insular ecological community structure since the Miocene. The largest predatory taxa have undergone extinction on the island, but their extant relatives persist throughout the Neotropics. Neoponera vejestoria sp. nov. is larger than all other predatory ant workers known from Hispaniola, extant or extinct. Our results empirically demonstrate the loss of a functional niche associated with body size, which is a trait long hypothesized to be related to extinction risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalBMC Biology
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Structural Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Plant Science
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

Keywords

  • Biogeography
  • Dominican amber
  • Extinction risk
  • Local extinction
  • Micro-CT
  • Random forest

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