Invertebrate Systematics Invertebrate Systematics Society
Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Where Fossils Dare and Males Matter: combined morphological and molecular analysis untangles the evolutionary history of the spider ant genus Leptomyrmex Mayr (Hymenoptera : Dolichoderinae)

Phillip Barden A B E , Brendon Boudinot C and Andrea Lucky D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.

B Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024, USA.

C Department of Entomology and Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

D Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.

E Corresponding author. Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, USA. Email: pbarden@amnh.org

Invertebrate Systematics 31(6) 765-780 https://doi.org/10.1071/IS16067
Submitted: 22 September 2016  Accepted: 9 April 2017   Published: 29 November 2017

Abstract

The distinctive ant genus Leptomyrmex Mayr, 1862 had been thought to be endemic to Australasia for over 150 years, but enigmatic Neotropical fossils have challenged this view for decades. The present study responds to a recent and surprising discovery of extant Leptomyrmex species in Brazil with a thorough evaluation of the Dominican Republic fossil material, which dates to the Miocene. In the first case study of direct fossil inclusion within Formicidae Latreille, 1809, we incorporated both living and the extinct Leptomyrmex species. Through simultaneous analysis of molecular and morphological characters in both Bayesian and parsimony frameworks, we recovered the fossil taxon as sister-group to extant Leptomyrmex in Brazil while considering the influence of taxonomic and character sampling on inferred hypotheses relating to tree topology, biogeography and morphological evolution. We also identified potential loss of signal in the binning of morphological characters and tested the impact of parameterisation on divergence date estimation. Our results highlight the importance of securing sufficient taxon sampling for extant lineages when incorporating fossils and underscore the utility of diverse character sources in accurate placement of fossil terminals. Specifically, we find that fossil placement in this group is influenced by the inclusion of male-based characters and the newly discovered Neotropical ‘Lazarus taxon’.

Additional keywords: biogeography, character discretisation, genitalia, male morphology, paleontology, tip-dating, total evidence.


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