Tetramorium atratulusis a rare workerless socially parasitic ant from the Palaearctic region, which has even been introduced together with its host in North America. This extreme inquiline is represented only by female and pupoid type male individuals, whose morphology and anatomy indicate a highly specialized level of parasitism. The body of males is depigmentated, the cuticle is thin, the petiole and postpetiole are widely connected, and degenerate mandibles, palps, and antennae are observed. Female wing venation is reduced and the occipital region is narrowed. Mature females are typically physogastric and found in queenless host nests.
Since, unlike many other obligate social parasites, Tetramorium atratulus is never known to coexist with the host colony's fertile queen, every Tetramorium atratulus–Tetramorium sp. colony is doomed to survive only the lifespan of the youngest Tetramorium sp. workers. Thus, the parasitic queen has very limited scope for producing alates to secure the next generation, as this time span is often only 2–3 years or fewer. As a result, even within its well-established range, Tetramorium atratulus is very scarce, with only a tiny proportion of Tetramorium sp. colonies playing host to this parasite.
Although Tetramorium atratulus was reported previously mainly in Tetramorium caespitum and T. impurum nests within the Tetramorium caespitum/impurum complex, it was also recorded from Sicily (Italy) from a nontypical low altitude (300 m) in a nest of T. diomedeum, which is a member of the Tetramorium ferox complex. Future clarification of the complicated taxonomic composition of the Tetramorium caespitum/impurum complex will probably enlarge the number of known host ant species parasitized by Tetramorium atratulus.
The only report about T. chefketi as a host of A. atratulus was given by Schulz & Sanetra (2002) as an amendment of the identified material published by Heinze (1987) from Tavşanlı (Turkey, Kütahya district). Tetramorium moravicum was also mentioned in Sanetra & Buschinger (2000) as a possible host of A. atratulus, but without any additional data and references.
^ abcLapeva-Gjonova, A.; Kiran, K.; Aksoy, V. (2012). "Unusual Ant Hosts of the Socially Parasitic Ant Anergates atratulus (Schenck, 1852) (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)". Psyche: A Journal of Entomology 2012: 1. doi:10.1155/2012/391525.edit
Heinze, J. (1987), "Three species of social parasitic ants new to Turkey", Insectes Sociaux 34 (1): 65–68, doi:10.1007/bf02224208
Sanetra, M.; Buschinger, A. (2000), "Phylogenetic relationships among social parasites and their hosts in the ant tribe Tetramoriini (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)", European Journal of Entomology 97 (1): 95–117, doi:10.14411/eje.2000.017
Schulz, A.; Sanetra, M. (2002), "Notes on the socially parasitic ants of Turkey and the synonymy of Epimyrma (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)", Entomofauna 23 (14): 157–172
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Queen. Blackish brown with yellow appendages and mandibles. Mandibles reduced with single apical tooth. Palp formula 1:1, palps reduced. Clypeus with anterior margin broadly incised. Antennae 10 or 11 segmented. Eyes large, set median laterally; ocelli present. Fore-wings with 1 discoidal cell and open radial cell. Petiole transverse, postpetiole twice as broad as long, broadly attached to gaster. Gaster with longitudinal furrow in virgin queens, strongly physogastric in mature queens. Length: 2.5 mm.
Male. Pupoidal and apterous, dull pale grey. Mandibles lobiform, edentate. Antennae10 or 11 segmented; ocelli present. Clypeus with anterior margin incised. Alitrunk with flight sclerites but wings never developed. Petiole and postpetiole compressed and broadly attached to following segments. Apex of gaster reflexed ventrally. Genitalia large and prominent. Length: 2.3 mm.
Distribution. Rare in Denmark and South Sweden, recorded only from NEZ, B, Hall., Ol. and Gtl. - In England recorded locally from Devon, Dorset, Hants and Surrey. - Range: Spain to Central Siberia, North Italy to South Sweden, also North America.
Biology. This is an obligate parasite of Tetramorium caespitumHNS . Queens fertilised within the nest of the host species fly away to secure adoption in other colonies. Queens of the host species are not present in Anergates-Tetramorium nests and only AnergatesHNS brood are developed, often in large numbers, from the single adopted AnergatesHNS queen whose gaster becomes grossly swollen.