Tapinoma erraticum

Homology Weekly: Metapleural Gland

<em>Tapinoma erraticum</em> worker. The rectangle shows the location of the left metapleural gland opening (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

Tapinoma simrothi worker. The rectangle shows the opening location of the left metapleural gland (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

The metapleural gland is the definitive character of ants. It is unique to the family. Nothing homologous or similar is found anywhere else in insects. Within the tree of life of Hymenoptera, myrmecologists agree that the appearance of this gland provides a good cutting point to marks-out ants as a monophyletic group1. You have it? You are an ant. You don’t? Sorry, you don’t qualify, get the hell out of here lousy wasp2. It is the ultimate ant synapomorphy.

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  1. Grimaldi, D. and D. Agosti (2000). The Oldest Ants are Cretaceous, Not Eocene: Comment. Canadian Entomologist 132(5):691-693.
  2. Yes, one can insult insects by calling them members of the Order Phthiraptera
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And as we discussed last semester, the Army Ants will leave nothing but your bones.
- Tom Waits

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