Molecular phylogeny and biogeography of the spider ants, genus Leptomyrmex Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 May; 59(2):281-92.MP
This study provides the first phylogenetic reconstruction of the ant genus Leptomyrmex Mayr, a prominent endemic component of rain forest and wet sclerophyll forest in Australia, New Guinea and New Caledonia. Five genes are used to reconstruct phylogeny and estimate of ages of diversification in order to test congruence of the history of nuclear and mitochondrial genes: three protein-coding nuclear genes: arginine kinase (argK, 897 bp), long wavelength rhodopsin (LW Rh, 546 bp) and wingless (Wg, 409 bp), as well as the large subunit ribosomal gene 28S (482 bp) and the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxidase I (COI, 658 bp). Four different partitioning schemes were tested for optimal resolving power; results show that partitioning by gene, translational pattern and codon position were uniformly favoured over less complex partitions. Nuclear markers showed relatively minor sequence divergence and provided strongly supported topology; phylogeny based solely on mtDNA produced somewhat conflicting topology but offered little power to resolve species complexes. Monophyly of the genus Leptomyrmex was recovered, as was the sister-group relationship of 'micro-' and 'macro-'Leptomyrmex species. Divergence dating analyses estimate that Leptomyrmex arose in the Eocene (stem age ∼ 44 million years ago (ma)), and that the 'macro-' species diverged from the 'micro-' species in the early Oligocene (∼ 31 ma). Diversification of the crown group 'macro-' and 'micro-'Leptomyrmex occurred in the Miocene (∼ 15 ma and 7.9 ma, respectively). New Guinean and New Caledonian lineages appear to have diverged from Australian lineages only recently (∼ 4.7 ma and 10.3 ma, respectively), and the latter clade is inferred to have reached New Caledonia from Australia via long distance dispersal. These results challenge previous hypotheses of Leptomyrmex classification and assumptions about their historical dispersal, but are in agreement with the current knowledge of the geological history of Melanesia.