Request from Birgit Schlick-Steiner & Florian Steiner, Innsbruck

Dear Myrmecologist,

Would you be willing to sample nests of the Tetramorium caespitum/impurum species complex and send the ants to us for analysis, please?

For background information on why we would need such samples, please see further down.

Details of our request: we would ask you to collect about 20 workers per nest of ants that look like Tetramorium caespitum or T. impurum; if present, alates would be fantastic, too. Any habitat would be of interest but, if possible, sampling natural habitats would probably allow for sampling the rarer species of the species complex. We would ask you to send us the ants until the end of the field season 2009.

If you could generously agree to sampling for us, we would send you seal-screw cap vials with 99% EtOH – how many vials would you consider as appropriate?
Please send an email to:

We are fully aware that it is not little we ask you for but a final clarification of the difficult situation in the species complex will not be possible without help from others. What we would be very happy to offer in return is to help you with any project of yours by sampling for you.
Thank you very much for reading these lines!

Warmest regards,


Background of request for Tetramorium caespitum/impurum material
In an earlier project, we investigated the systematics of the Western Palearctic Tetramorium caespitum/impurum complex, resulting in the recognition of there being at least seven cryptic species instead of the earlier recognised two species, T. caespitum and T. impurum. Further information can be found in the papers listed at the end of this page (and please let us know if you would like to receive PDF files of any of them).
There have remained some loose ends, though, and we now start a new project for in-depth clarification of several aspects. Aims of the new project include:
(a) more rigorous integrative-taxonomic species delimitations by analysing a larger, geographically more representative sample and by additionally using nuclear DNA markers (which then will also allow to test whether any hybridisation occurs);
(b) reduced error rates in routine species identification based on the increased sample;
(c) nomenclatural consequences (up to now we have been able to resolve nomenclature for only one of the newly discovered species, T. sp. A; ms with the taxonomic description to be submitted one of these weeks);
(d) in-depth evaluation of potential evolutionary processes as drivers of diversification in this instance of surprisingly high cryptic diversity.

For further information please see:
Schlick-Steiner, B.C., F.M. Steiner, K. Moder, B. Seifert, M. Sanetra, E. Dyreson, C. Stauffer & E. Christian (2006): A multidisciplinary approach reveals cryptic diversity in western Palearctic Tetramorium ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). – Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 259-273.
Schlick-Steiner, B.C., B. Seifert, C. Stauffer, E. Christian, R.H. Crozier & F.M. Steiner (2007): Without morphology cryptic species stay in taxonomic crypsis following discovery. – Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22: 391-392.
Steiner, F.M., B.C. Schlick-Steiner & K. Moder (2006): Morphology-based cyber identification engine to identify ants of the Tetramorium caespitum/impurum complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). – Myrmecologische Nachrichten 8: 175-180.
Steiner, F.M., B.C. Schlick-Steiner & A. Buschinger (2003): First record of unicolonial polygyny in Tetramorium cf. caespitum (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). – Insectes Sociaux 50: 98-99.
Steiner, F.M., B.C. Schlick-Steiner, A. Nikiforov, R. Kalb & R. Mistrik (2002): Cuticular hydrocarbons of Tetramorium ants from Central Europe: Analysis of GC-MS data with Self-Organizing Maps (SOM) and implications for systematics. – Journal of Chemical Ecology 28: 2569-2584.