In the belly of the Devil: New rare ant species found in the stomach of a poison frog

October 4, 2016, Pensoft Publishers
A worker of the new ant species Lenomyrmex hoelldobleri in full-face. Credit: Dr Christian Rabeling

While new ant species are usually discovered in surveys involving researchers searching through leaf litter, it turns out that sifting through the stomach contents of insect-eating frogs might prove no less effective, especially when it comes to rare species. Such is the case of a new species of rarely collected long-toothed ant, discovered in the belly of a Little Devil poison frog in Ecuador.

The international team of Drs Christian Rabeling and Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo, both affiliated with University of Rochester, USA, Lauren A. O'Connell, Harvard University, USA, Luis A. Coloma, Fundación Otonga and Universidad Regional Amazónica Ikiam, Ecuador, and Fernando Fernández, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, have their study published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The new ant species, named Lenomyrmex hoelldobleri after renowned myrmecologist Bert Hölldobler on the occasion of his 80th birthday, was described based on a single individual - a female worker, recovered from a Little Devil poison . It is the seventh known species in this rarely collected Neotropical genus.

Similarly to its relatives within the group, this ant amazes with its slender and elongate mouthpart, yet it is larger than all of them. The remarkable jaws speak of specialised predatory habits, however, so far, nothing is known about these ants' feeding behavior.

The amphibian, whose diet majorly consists of ants, was collected from the Ecuadorian region Choco, which, unfortunately, despite being one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world with exceptionally high levels of endemism, is also one of Earth's most threatened areas.

A worker of the new ant species Lenomyrmex hoelldobleri in profile. Credit: Dr Christian Rabeling

In conclusion, the authors point out that "studying vertebrate stomach contents is not only a way of studying the trophic ecology" (meaning the feeding relationships between organisms), "but also an interesting source of cryptic and new arthropod species, including ants."

Furthermore, the scientists note that nowadays there is no need to kill a frog, in order to study its stomach. "Stomach flushing methods have been developed and successfully applied in numerous studies, which avoids killing individuals."

Explore further: Greek heroic deity Prometheus now has a namesake in a new tiny rain frog from Ecuador

More information: Christian Rabeling et al, Lenomyrmex hoelldobleri: a new ant species discovered in the stomach of the dendrobatid poison frog, Oophaga sylvatica (Funkhouser), ZooKeys (2016). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.618.9692

Related Stories

"Sleeping beauty" is a new species from the Peruvian Andes

August 11, 2016

A new species of rain frog was discovered in the premontane forests of the Peruvian central Andes. Referring to the mountain chain's local name, the amphibian's name translates to 'Sleeping beauty'. Another striking thing ...

The peculiar life history of Middle American Stenamma ants

April 25, 2013

Stenamma is a cryptic "leaf-litter" ant genus that occurs in moderately humid to wet forest habitats throughout the Holarctic region, Central America, and part of northwestern South America (Colombia and Ecuador). The genus ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.