Given the antiquity of the lineage, the temptation to view Martialis as an ur-ant of sorts is strong. E.O. Wilson certainly felt that way when interviewed for a recent NYTimes article:With due respect to Wilson, such a view is a mistake. Martialis has over 120 million years’ separation since the ur-ant, plenty of time to develop along its own trajectory.
Dr. Wilson…is trying to contain his excitement: the 14,001st ant species has just been discovered in the soils of a Brazilian forest. He steamrolls any incipient skepticism about the ant’s uniqueness — the new species is a living coelacanth of ants, a primitive throwback to the first ant, a wasp that shed its wings and assigned all its descendants to live in earth, not their ancestral air. The new ant is so alien, Dr. Wilson explains, so unlike any known to earthlings, that it will be named as if it came from another planet.