Sunday, February 06, 2011

Myrmica monograph

In the coming days a huge monograph "Myrmica ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the Old World" will be published.

It is the first taxonomic review of the entire Old World fauna of the widespread temperate ant genus Myrmica that is famed for its interactions with many social parasites of high nature conservation interest, e.g. Large Blue butterflies (Phengaris spp.)
This about 800 pages monograph is more than a traditional taxonomic review, it gives the history of the taxonomic treatment of Myrmica, summarizes the current knowledge of the social biology and ecology of the genus, analyses the zoogeography of the various species and outlines the author’s views on the evolution and speciation within the genus.
The authors currently recognize 142 extant and 5 extinct species from the Old World and they provide Identification Keys to the species for each of seven geographic regions. This should make the Keys more user-friendly for non-specialists.
The locations of the type specimens are noted in the taxonomic catalogue, which is arranged alphabetically by species, as are the accurate line-drawings of every species. These illustrate features such as the shape and sculpture of the head and body, used in the identification keys. This arrangement makes it easy to find the data for any particular species.
There is a full list of all names ascribed to genus Myrmica and a table of synonyms from among the valid names is provided. The etymology of many of the names is interesting and provides insights to thoughts of the original authors as does the short biographies are made for all authors of more than one valid species of Myrmica.
The authors believe that there are many species of Myrmica yet to be discovered, particularly in the Indo-Oriental regions and in the southern mountains of Eurasia. This book provides the essential starting point for future studies.
Radchenko is one of Europe’s leading ant taxonomists and an expert on the ant fauna of the Palaearctic, while Elmes is an ecologist and eco-physiologist who has made a particular study of Myrmica ants over a 45 year career.

Both authors, Elmes and Radchenko have already extensively published on the subject, and it is very helpful to get all their widely scattered publications in one large monograph. In the old tradition of ant myrmecologists, the monograph is pretty costly and not open access and thus it will as such not be widely accessible. The challenge will be how to process 800 pages and make the descriptions online accessible at Plazi to share already available Myrmica treatments, and thus complete all the treatments for the Old World species in places like EOL or antweb.

The details of the publication are as follows:

Myrmica ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the Old World
Alexander G. Radchenko and Graham W. Elmes
ca 800 pages, 332 figs, 162 maps; hardcover, 165 x 235 mm.

Editor: Natura optima dux Foundation, Warsaw, Poland
Issue data: December 2010

Price: 150 EUR + postage (after 31 January 2011)

Natura optima dux Foundation
Wilcza 64
00-679 Warszawa, Poland
fax 48 22 629 63 02

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