Project 1 - Ants: Taxonomic and Evolutionary Studies of a Hyperdiverse Fauna

1.3: Systematics of the large and diverse ant genus Iridomyrmex


Update - October 2008

Australian Ants: The Genus Iridomyrmex

Ants are everywhere and one particularly prolific group of Australian ants is the genus Iridomyrmex, familiar to many Australians because it contains the meat ants. [read more...]


Iridomyrmex is the "Eucalyptus" of the invertebrate world, occurring throughout Australia in exceptionally high densities and being hyper-diverse with many hundreds of species (most undescribed). However, the genus is morphologically uniform and lacks conspicuous morphological characters. This has hampered serious taxonomic work on the group and resulted in a poor understanding of the species present.

Seeking solutions

This project will provide, for the first time; a species-level taxonomic understanding of this group. Hypotheses of species boundaries and intraspecific variation will be framed using phenotypic data and these will then be tested using multiple molecular markers from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA.


Traditional morphological analyses will be combined with molecular techniques to provide data necessary to complete a robust revision of Iridomyrmex. Specimens held in collections throughout Australia will be examined to ensure the broadest possible sampling of this diverse genus.


This project is a collaboration between Curtin University of Technology and the Australian National Insect Collection, with input from a wide range of systematists and ecologists from throughout Australia and overseas.

Tools for Decision Makers

The results of this research will be published using a variety of methods, including traditional peer-reviewed paper-based journals and a variety of web sites. The primary web delivery will focus on expanding the current website Australian Ants Online and establishing the site as a web atlas at species level.

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