University of São Paulo: Small and Giant: New species of ants are named after great women

THEresearcher Mônica Ulysséa, postdoctoral fellow at the USP Zoology Museum, described 14 new species of ants of the genus Hylomyrma , a group of insects in the Formicidae family . The names given to the new species are homage to myrmecology (the science that studies ants), to indigenous peoples and, mainly, to women. The initiative seeks to draw attention to gender inequality in society, which is also a reality within the laboratories, and “exalt and recognize the life and work of incredible women”, as stated by the researcher to Jornal da USP .

In all, eleven women are honored, including: Dandara dos Palmares , one of the main names in the black struggle in Brazil; Marielle Franco , Rio de Janeiro councilor signed; Miraildes Maciel Mota , soccer player known by the nickname “Formiga”, and Mítia Heusi Silveira , biologist, friend of Mônica and victim of domestic violence. Below, check out the complete list of species and their tributes.

The article was published in the magazine Zootaxa, in October of this year, in collaboration with Carlos Roberto Ferreira Brandão and support from the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo (Fapesp).

The group of the genus Hylomyrma , which previously housed only 16 species, now comprises 30 ants that live in the region called Neotropical, from southern Mexico to northern Argentina and southern Brazil. Despite being small, ants represent an important piece of knowledge about the planet’s biodiversity as they play a role in various ecosystem processes. “Giving names to these animals is also recognizing the diversity that exists in a given space. Knowing this, it is possible to say whether the species is endemic to a region, for example”, says Mônica.

This is the case of the ant Hylomyrma wachiperi , which received its name in reference to the Wachiperi indigenous ethnic group, since the species has only been recorded until today in the region where this people lives. “But the tribute is to all indigenous peoples, who are the guardians of our forests and their biodiversity by maintaining more harmonious relations with the place where they live.”

Research like these also contributes as knowledge to other ecological works, which will seek to understand the relationships and interactions of each being in a given environment. As the researcher says, taxonomy is a basic science, which provides the foundation for other studies, but it does not receive adequate attention and the necessary investments – mainly in the midst of the current budget cuts in national science.

How do you catalog a new species?
From time to time, taxonomists, scientists responsible for classifying life, re-evaluate groups of different animals, vegetables, plants, fungi, and any and all beings. It is a meticulous work that, contrary to what most people imagine, has little to do with clearing a forest in search of a rare bird – but that does not mean that knowing organisms in their habitats is not necessary. Scientists collect samples from individuals all over the planet and provide this material to various institutions and laboratories. The researcher Mônica was already researching ants, but she dedicated herself to the genus Hylomyrma because the group had not received new taxonomy attention since 1973.

From that period until today, new specimens of the genus were collected and deposited in several research institutions; pieces that had not been studied until then – and here the role of taxonomic revision. The scientist came into contact with the most diverse museums and laboratories in the world (10 national and 23 foreign) to obtain this material. After gathering more than 3,200,000 specimens donated by different institutions, it’s time to take a magnifying glass and, with great care and many hours, identify the specific characteristics of each one of the ants in order to categorize them. In this process, 14 ants were discovered that had not yet been described, that is, they had characteristics different from the others, which made them unique, and were not present in the scientific literature. The next step was the naming of species.

hylomyrma adelae

Species in honor of educator, feminist, essayist and poet Adela Zamudio (1854–1928), born in Cochabamba, Bolivia, which – no wonder – is the place of registration of this species. Adela was born on October 11, the day today is the Bolivian Women’s Day, for her pioneering role in the fight against discrimination against women in Latin America; against racism and also because of their criticisms of religious teaching.

– “Oh, privileged mortal, that of perfect and full you enjoy sure renown! In any case, for this, it was enough for you to be born hombre”

hylomyrma dandarae


Species in homage to Dandara dos Palmares (?–1694), who acted in the resistance against slavery practiced in Colonia Brazil. Dandara was part of the “Quilombo dos Palmares”, the largest quilombo that ever existed in Latin America, with around 20 thousand inhabitants, and one of the great symbols of the resistance of the enslaved. The warrior was married to Zumbi dos Palmares, with whom he had three children, before committing suicide so as not to return to her enslaved condition.

hylomyrma jeronimae


Species in honor of Jerônima Mesquita (1880–1972), Minas Gerais, nurse and Brazilian feminist leader. It was born on April 30, the date on which National Women’s Day is celebrated, due to its importance in the fight against gender inequality in Brazil. She worked alongside biologist Bertha Lutz (1894–1976) and Stella Guerra Duval (1879–1971) in the struggle for the right to vote for women, actively participating in the 1932 suffrage movement. The three founded the Brazilian Federation for Female Progress and the Council National Women, which consolidated its actions in the fight for equal rights and opportunities for women.

Hylomyrma lispectorae


Species in honor of Clarice Lispector (1920–1977), Ukrainian naturalized Brazilian, journalist, writer and one of the main names in Brazilian literature of the 20th century. In addition to acknowledging Clarice’s work, the choice was made by researcher Mônica’s preference for poetry .

– “ Freedom is not enough. What I wish has no name yet ”

hylomyrma macieae


Species in honor of Miraildes Maciel Mota, Bahia, soccer player, better known by her nickname: Formiga. Formiga is the only footballer to have participated in seven editions of the Olympic Games and all editions of the Women’s Soccer Cup. Her trajectory until becoming queen is one of overcoming prejudices – for being a woman, black, from the Northeast and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and also for fighting for the appreciation, recognition, development and professionalization of women’s football.

hylomyrma daisy


Species in honor of Margarida Maria Alves (1933–1983), from Paraíba, defender of human rights and the rights of rural workers. She was the first female trade unionist in the country. On August 12, 1983, Margarida was murdered for her struggle. Her struggle and trajectory, since 2000, has inspired the “Marcha das Margaridas” – a march that brings together thousands of women from all over Brazil for the social and political recognition and full citizenship of rural workers.

– “ I don’t run away from the fight. It is better to die in the fight than to starve ”.



Hylomyrma mariae


Species in honor of Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva (1956–2011), from Pará, extractivist, environmentalist and unionist, recognized for her fight for the preservation of the Amazon forest, sustainable extractivism, and in defense of agrarian reform. Maria and her partner, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva (1957–2011), were murdered for their activism and for the omission of the Brazilian state, which refused the protection they requested. Posthumously, Maria and José were honored by the United Nations (UN) with the Forest Heroes Award.

hylomyrma marielleae


Species in honor of Marielle Francisco da Silva (1979–2018), better known as Marielle Franco, from Rio de Janeiro, sociologist and politician affiliated with the PSOL. Marielle defended feminism, human rights, the LGBTQIA+ population and the residents of underprivileged communities. The policy was critical of federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro, as well as constantly criticizing and denouncing police abuses and human rights violations. As councilor, in just over a year, she drafted 16 bills, two of which were approved: regulation of the motorcycle taxi service and the Birth Homes Act. On March 14, 2018, she was shot dead with her driver, Anderson Pedro Mathias Gomes. A crime that remains unpunished. “Marielle, present!” , says Monica.

hylomyrma mitiae


Species in honor of Mítia Heusi Silveira (1984–2010), a personal friend of Mônica, “an incredible and inspiring woman”, who, in her biology degree at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), developed projects with fungi and beetles. Mitia also worked at the National Indian Foundation (Funai).

Mitia was a victim of femicide, as are 13 Brazilian women every day. “These things never seem to happen near us, but they are closer than we imagine”, says the researcher and recalls the increase in the numbers of domestic violence in the pandemic.

hylomyrma spring


Species in honor of Ana Maria Primavesi (1920–2020), an Austrian agronomist based in Brazil. Primavesi was a pioneer in studies of soils in tropical forests, particularly on the ecological management of soils. It revolutionized the view of agriculture by considering the soil as a living organism, thus laying the foundations for agroecology and organic agriculture.

hylomyrma virginiae


Species in honor of Virginia Leone Bicudo (1910–2003), São Paulo, sociologist. Virginia looked to science for defenses to deal with racism and was a pioneer in Brazil when dealing with the study of race relations in her dissertation, in 1945. From sociology, she entered psychology in search of answers to the causes of suffering, being the first non-medical one to be recognized as a psychoanalyst.

hylomyrma wachiperi


This species occurs in the Peruvian Amazon forest, in a region where the indigenous people of the Wachiperi ethnic group live. “This is our tribute to them and to all indigenous peoples, for their resistance, for their defense of the forest, for their protection of biodiversity and maintenance of Creole varieties and seeds”, says the scientist.

Hylomyrma lopesi


Species in honor of Professor Benedito Cortês Lopes, who taught in the Biological Sciences Course at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), in addition to guiding numerous researches in the scope of undergraduate and graduate studies. “Benê”, as he was called, was the one who introduced Mônica “the enchanting world of ants and science”.

hylomyrma peetersi


Species named after Belgian researcher Christian Paul Peeters (1956–2020). Graduated and Ph.D. in South Africa and post-doctoral studies in Australia, Japan and Germany. From 1993 onwards, he settled in Paris, France, where he continued to develop his research at the Pierre and Marie Curie University. Christian contributed to the knowledge about the biology and morphology of ants. In particular, in Mônica Ulysséa’s doctorate, she collaborated in the understanding of intercastes.

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