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February 14, 2014

New ant species discovered in Central America and Caribbean (Image 3)

The magnified, monster-like face of the ant Eurhopalothrix zipacna, named after Zipacna, a vicious, crocodile-like demon of Mayan mythology. Found in the mountains of Guatemala and Honduras, it is one of 33 new species of Central American and Caribbean predatory ants discovered by Jack Longino, an entomologist and taxonomist at the University of Utah. Thus far, Longino has discovered more than 130 new species of ants during his career.

Longino identified and named 14 new species of the ant genus Eurhopalothrix and distinguished them from 14 other previously known species. The genus name is Greek and refers to the club-shaped hairs on many Eurhopalothrix (pronounced you-row-pal-oh-thrix) species. Longino also identified 19 new ant species from the genus Octostruma (pronounced oct-oh-strew-ma) and described differences from 15 other previously known species. The genus name means eight swellings for the ants eight-segmented antennas. The new ant species are less than one-twelfth to one-twenty-fifth of an inch long--much smaller than a rice grain or common half-inch-long household ants--and live in the rotting wood and dead leaves that litter the forest floors in Central America. They were found mostly in small patches of forest that remain in a largely agricultural landscape, highlighting the importance of forest conservation efforts in Central America.

Longino collected about 90 percent of the ants in his new studies during the past 30 years working on a series of projects to inventory insects, spiders and other arthropods in Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras. Many of the species also are in the Caribbean and South America.

To learn more about Longino's work, see the University of Utah online news story Mini-Monsters of the Forest Floor. [Research supported by National Science Foundation grant DEB-1157383 (Project LLAMA)]. (Date of Image: 2013) [Image 3 of 4 related images. See Image 4.]

Credit: John T. Longino, University of Utah

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