The Ants of Fiji – Print and PDF out now

Figure 1. Photographs of Fijian ants. A) Acropyga sp. FJ02 (endemic) carrying mealybug. B) Hypoponera eutrepta (endemic) carrying larva. C) Tetramorium lanuginosum (introduced). D) Camponotus dentatus (endemic). E) Odontomachus simillimus (Pacific native). F) Camponotus polynesicus (endemic).

The print and full color, open-access pdf versions of the Ants of Fiji (Sarnat & Economo, 2012) are now available. The 400-page monograph reviews the entire known Fijian ant fauna, and includes the results of a recently completed archipelago-wide biodiversity inventory. A total of 187 ant species representing 43 genera are recognized here with an illustrated key to genera, synopses of each species, keys to species of all genera, and a species list. The work is heavily illustrated with specimen images, distribution maps, and habitat elevation charts.


Sarnat, E.M. & Economo, E.P. (2012) Ants of Fiji. University of California Publications in Entomology, 132, 1-398. [pdf]


Expert from the introduction section

Biologists have long sought to document and understand the unique evolution and ecology of island biotas. Oceanic archipelagos are often adorned with spectacular evolutionary radiations and unique ecosystems. These distinctive faunas, however, are highly vulnerable to human activities, climate change, and introduction of exotic species. Among island ant faunas, perhaps nowhere are these themes so prominently on display as in the Fijian archipelago.

The Fijian terrestrial biota was assembled during approximately 20 million years of over-water colonization, in situ evolution and speciation, and more recently through the arrival of species as stowaways on canoes, galleys and battleships (Figure 1). Today’s Fijian ant fauna is characterized by extreme geographic isolation from source areas, differentiation and pattern formation among islands, and contemporary invasions. The list of species occurring in Fiji, which continues to grow, includes both widespread dominant species and rare taxonomic oddities.

The motivation of this study is to provide an update to W. M. Mann’s (1921) monograph The Ants of the Fiji Islands, published 89 years ago. At the time, Mann lamented that the insect fauna of Fiji had been almost entirely neglected, and the limited knowledge accrued in the years since his publication is even more lamentable. With the recent collection of a large number of ant specimens in recent years, and a surge of interest in biodiversity research and conservation in Fiji, the opportunity has arrived to synthesize the taxonomy of the Fijian ant fauna for new generations of biologists. Our goal is to provide a resource that will allow a scientist to collect an ant specimen anywhere in Fiji and connect it to information on its taxonomy, geographic distribution, habitat distribution and natural history. With 187 species distributed over seven islands of moderate size, and hundreds of smaller islands, the system represents a diverse yet tractable fauna that can be useful for testing hypotheses in evolutionary biology, island biogeography, community ecology, invasion biology and other disciplines.

It would be remiss to conclude this introduction without a note of recognition and thanks to the people of Fiji. Mann (1921) wrote in the introduction of his own treatise on Fijian ants, “I shall remember the native Fijians…as the kindliest, most hospitable folk I have known.” Eighty-nine years later, we both share those sentiments and add our admiration for the Fijians’ thoughtful stewardship of their native lands. We hope this small study will be useful for scientific discovery and conservation of Fiji’s fascinating natural heritage in the generations to come.


  1. Anonymyrmica says:

    Congratulations, Eli! I downloaded and consumed the paper as soon as I saw it this morning. What program did you use to construct the little habitat-elevation graph? I think adapting this form to illustrate country-elevation would resolve our long-standing conundrum of representing this for Central America.

  2. Evan Economo says:

    The habitat-elevation charts were simple x-y plots made in matlab, although any plotting program would have worked fine. The “y” value was elevation, but for each locality the “x” value was a number reflecting the habitat category (1,2,3,4,5) plus a random number between -0.25 and 0.25. The random number is added so that all the points don’t pile up on the same vertical line (this is a common trick). Without it, there would just be a black line of points surrounded by whitespace.

    The density of gray dots is correlated with sampling effort. The black dots reflect observations of the species in question. The reason we did this was because we realized that just plotting occurrences was misleading because it doesn’t reflect either variation in sampling or variation in total land area at each habitat-elevation combination. For example, there are no disturbed habitats at the very highest elevations, so the fact that species wasn’t detected there isn’t really informative. Of course, fitting occurrence models for each species is a more rigorous way to characterize distribution and is something we are working on for the future. However, for this monograph we wanted to keep it as close to the raw data as possible.

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