Martialinae are pale, eyeless and probably hypogaeic predatory ants. Morphological character sets suggest a close relationship to the ant subfamily Leptanillinae. Recent analyses based on molecular sequence data suggest that Martialinae are the sister group to all extant ants. However, by comparing molecular studies and different reconstruction methods, the position of Martialinae remains ambiguous. While this sister group relationship was well supported by Bayesian partitioned analyses, Maximum Likelihood approaches could not unequivocally resolve the position of Martialinae. By re-analysing a previous published molecular data set, we show that the Maximum Likelihood approach is highly appropriate to resolve deep ant relationships, especially between Leptanillinae, Martialinae and the remaining ant subfamilies. Based on improved alignments, alignment masking, and tree reconstructions with a sufficient number of bootstrap replicates, our results strongly reject a placement of Martialinae at the first split within the ant tree of life. Instead, we suggest that Leptanillinae are a sister group to all other extant ant subfamilies, whereas Martialinae branch off as a second lineage. This assumption is backed by approximately unbiased (AU) tests, additional Bayesian analyses and split networks. Our results demonstrate clear effects of improved alignment approaches, alignment masking and data partitioning. We hope that our study illustrates the importance of thorough, comprehensible phylogenetic analyses using the example of ant relationships.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 24-June-2011
Author(s): Kück P., Hita Garcia F., Misof B., Meusemann K.