Aim: One of the most consistent global biogeographic patterns is the latitudinal diversity gradient where species richness peaks within the equatorial tropics and decreases towards the poles. Here, we explore the global biogeography of socially parasitic ant species, which comprises the most diverse group of social parasites in the Hymenoptera. We test the biogeographic hypothesis that ant social parasites are distributed along an inverse latitudinal diversity gradient (iLDG) by peaking in diversity outside of the equatorial tropics, which would contrast with the biogeographic pattern observed in free-living, non-parasitic ant species. Location: Global. Taxon: Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Methods: We assembled a comprehensive biogeographic dataset consisting of 6001 geographic distribution records for all 371 taxonomically described socially parasitic ant species. We used phylogenetic and taxonomic studies to estimate the number of independent evolutionary origins of ant social parasitism to directly compare species richness with the number of species representing independent evolutionary origins of social parasitism across a latitudinal gradient. In addition, we compared ant social parasite diversity across biogeographic regions using rarefaction to account for different sampling efforts. Finally, we tested for a correlation between latitude and the proportion of ant social parasite species within regional ant faunae. Results: The geographic distribution records and the inferred 91 independent evolutionary origins of socially parasitic life histories in ants show that both species richness and the number of species representing independent evolutionary origins of social parasitism peak in the northern hemisphere outside of the equatorial tropics. Based on rarefaction curves, northern latitude regions harbour the most ant social parasite species, but the diversity of independent evolutionary origins is not significantly different between northern and southern hemispheres. The proportion of ant social parasite species within regional faunae is tightly correlated with latitude only in the northern hemisphere. Main conclusions: The iLDG of ant social parasites contrasts with the biogeographic pattern observed in free-living, non-parasitic ant species and appears to be driven by large species radiations as well as by the presence of specialized life histories exclusive to the northern hemisphere.
- social parasitism
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics