Worldwide Spread of the Moorish sneaking Ant, Cardiocondyla mauritanica (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)
biogeography, Biological invasion, exotic species, invasive, species
Cardiocondyla spp. are small, inconspicuous ants, native to the Old World. Until recently, Cardiocondyla mauritanica Forel, 1890 was a little known species recorded almost exclusively from the semi-arid subtropics of North Africa, the Middle East, and neighboring islands. In contrast, Cardiocondyla nuda Mayr, 1866 was considered a cosmopolitan tramp species, spread broadly around the world through human commerce. A recent taxonomic reanalysis by B. Seifert, however, found genuine C. nuda restricted to Australia, New Guinea, and Western Oceania, and that published records of ‘C. nuda’ from outside this region were based on misidentifications of other species, notably C. mauritanica. In addition, Cardiocondyla ectopia, known from North America, was found to be a junior synonym of C. mauritanica. Here, I examine the worldwide spread of C. mauritanica. I compiled published and unpublished C. mauritanica specimen records from >250 sites, documenting the earliest known records for 47 geographic areas (countries, island groups, major islands, and US states), including sev- eral for which I found no previously published records: Barbados, Bonaire, Curaçao, Grenada, Saba, and Saudi Arabia. Cardiocondyla mauritanica is found primarily in semi-arid and urban environments. Cardiocondyla mauritanica shows an apparently continuous distribution and geographic variation in morphology from northwest Africa to India suggesting that C. mauritanica is native throughout this subtropical expanse. Old World records of C. mauritanica far from this range come from Ascension, Zimbabwe, and several Indo-Pacific islands. Te sole temperate record of C. mauritanica comes from Ukraine. Cardiocondyla mauritanica was first found in the New World in 1967, and has spread through the southwestern US, northern Mexico, Florida, and the West Indies. Part of the success of C. mauritanica in exotic locales may relate to its ability to co-exist with dominant invasive ants, such as the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr, 1868).