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Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences
Volume 27 (1), 2020, Pages 184-188

DNA barcoding of the fire ant genus Solenopsis Westwood (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from the Riyadh region, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Khawaja Ghulam Rasoola, Mureed Husaina, Shehzad Salmana, Muhammad Tufaila,b, Sukirno Sukirnoc, Abdulrahman S.Aldawooda

Department of Plant Protection, College of Food and Agriculture Sciences, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


The ant genus Solenopsis Westwood, 1840 is the largest in Myrmicinae subfamily having almost 200 described species worldwide. They are commonly distributed in the tropics and temperate areas of the world. Some invasive Solenopsis species are very dreadful. We have already reported a fire ant species, Solenopsis saudiensis Sharaf & Aldawood, 2011, identified using traditional morphometric approaches of species identification. Present study was carried out to develop DNA Barcoding to identify Solenopsis saudiensis and to elucidate genetic structure of the various S. saudiensis populations across their distribution range in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The comparison of DNA barcodes showed no genetic diversity among six populations and a queen from S. saudiensis analyzed from the Riyadh region. This genetic resemblance probably reflects their adaptation toward a specific habitat, thus constituting a single and strong gene pool. Our comprehensive field survey did not provide any evidence of Solenopsis species except S. saudiensis in the Riyadh region. Solenopsis saudiensis populations were only found around date palm trees indicating their strong association with date palm groves. Moreover, S. saudiensis has 83–86% sequence identity to other Solenopsis spp. from other parts of the world. Interestingly, the highest sequence identity of (86%) was with that of Solenopsis molesta Say, 1836, the thief ant, from the USA. This study provides a working laboratory procedure and a reference library for the identification of Solenopsis saudiensis.

Keywords: Fire ant, DNA barcoding, Cytochrome C oxidase I, Biodiversity, Arabian Peninsula.

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