The discovery, by myrmecologist David Emmanuel M. General of the UPLB Museum of Natural History, of two new species of ants, was recently announced by Myrmecological News in its September 2015 issue. The two species represent a new genus, Aretridis, composed of “ground-foraging ants apparently restricted to elevations above 900 meters above sea level.” The new genus name combines two Greek words arête (excellence) and idris (ant).

According to the article by General in Myrmecological News, the first species was first collected in 2003 by General’s undergraduate student in Ateneo de Naga, Ms. Bambet Alto, from Mt. Isarog.

“The single specimen collected by Alto was imaged and DNA-sequenced but was lost while being examined by other scientists,” General said during an interview. “Fortunately, the ant was again collected by Dr. Ronald M. Clouse during an expedition to Mt. Bulusan in 2014,” he added. The ant was referred to General for taxonomic identification who later determined it as new. He named it Aretridis clousei sp. n., after Dr. Clouse who collected all the type specimens.

The second species, named A. buenaventei sp. n. by General, was collected by Philippine National Museum researcher Perry Archival C. Buenavente in 2010 from Mt. Palali, Nueva Vizcaya. “A. buenaventei was found when a rotten log on the forest floor containing the nest was disturbed in the dying light of late afternoon,” General reported.

The two newly-described species now brings the number of valid species and subspecies of ants in the Philippines to 510, although General estimates that the number maybe even more than a thousand. “The Philippine ant fauna is very rich, but it has not been fully studied, primarily because only few scientists study ants in the field,” General said.

The importance of ants in the environment, according to the researcher, should never be discounted. “Ants are very responsive bioindicators which can be used for monitoring and assessment of environments very prone to fire, grazing and logging, and other disturbances by humans,” General added.

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