Two new species of socially parasitic nylanderia ants from the southeastern United States

Steven J. Messer, Stefan P. Cover, Christian Rabeling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In ants, social parasitism is an umbrella term describing a variety of life-history strategies, where a parasitic species depends entirely on a free-living species, for part of or its entire life-cycle, for either colony found-ing, survival, and/or reproduction. The highly specialized inquiline social parasites are fully dependent on their hosts for their entire lifecycles. Most inquiline species are tolerant of the host queen in the parasitized colony, forgo producing a worker caste, and invest solely in the production of sexual offspring. In general, inquilines are rare, and their geographic distribution is limited, making it difficult to study them. Inqui-line populations appear to be small, cryptic, and they are perhaps ephemeral. Thus, information about their natural history is often fragmentary or non-existent but is necessary for understanding the socially parasitic life history syndrome in more detail. Here, we describe two new species of inquiline social para-sites, Nylanderia deyrupi sp. nov. and Nylanderia parasitica sp. nov., from the southeastern United States, parasitizing Nylanderia wojciki and Nylanderia faisonensis, respectively. The formicine genus Nylanderia is large and globally distributed, but until the recent description of Nylanderia deceptrix, social parasites were unknown from this genus. In addition to describing the new social parasite species, we summarize the fragmentary information known about their biology, present a key to both the queens and the males of the Nylanderia social parasites, and discuss the morphology of the social parasites in the context of the inquiline syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-48
Number of pages26
Issue number921
StatePublished - 2020


  • Formicidae
  • Inquiline syndrome
  • Inquilinism
  • Myrmecosymbiosis
  • Social parasitism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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