In a statement, the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (FCUL), to which two of the Portuguese researchers, Ana Rita Gonçalves and Octávio Paulo are attached, said that the species ‘Tachydromia stenoptera’ can only be found in Portugal, “in a relatively restricted area of Serra da Estrela and Serra da Malcata, in areas of deciduous or marcescent forest, mainly in oak groves”.
Besides this species, three other species of ant-flies have been discovered: the ‘Tachydromia ebejeri’ (common in Portugal and Spain), the ‘Tachydromia nigrohirta’ and the ‘Tachydromia cantabrica’ (these two in Spain).
Ant flies belong to the genus ‘Tachydromia’, are about two millimetres long, inhabit the dead blanket of deciduous and marcescent woodlands such as oak forests, and, although they are flies, they have no functional wings.
“They can be confused with ants at first sight, not only in their morphological appearance but sometimes also in their behaviour”, the FCUL statement adds, adding that these flies “are often found next to ants that tend to ignore them”.
Ana Rita Gonçalves, first author of the study, published as a monograph in the open-access specialised journal European Journal of Taxonomy, studied and described the morphology of all the ant-flies known from the Iberian Peninsula and Italy (ten species in all), as part of her Master’s in Conservation Biology at FCUL.
This work “helped to support the description of new species”, the statement said, citing the researcher, who is currently doing her PhD at the National Institute for Amazonian Research in Brazil.
According to FCUL, in most cases only the locality where the known specimens had been collected for the “first and only time” was known, that is, more than 100 years ago.