One of the newfound species, Eurhopalothrix zipacna, is named for a violent, crocodile-like Mayan demon, and is found in Guatemala and Honduras. Another, dubbed Eurhopalothrix xibalba, or "place of fear," refers to the Mayan underworld; this ant is found from Honduras to Costa Rica.
Scientists have so far recorded about 15,000 species of ants worldwide, according to the statement. But there may be as many as 100,000 in total, said Longino, who has now discovered 131 new species of ants, the statement noted. Insects in the tropics have astonishing levels of diversity, studies have shown.
About half of the new ants were described in a paper co-authored by Longino and published July 29 in the journal Zootaxa. The rest are detailed in a paper to be published shortly in the same journal. The ants detailed in the present study come from the genus Eurhopalothrix, known for the club-shaped hairs on their bodies. The latter insects in the forthcoming paper hail from the genus Octostruma, which means "eight swellings," referring to the ants' eight-segmented antennas, according to the release.