Cephalotes basalis (F. Smith 1876)

Formicidae, Hymenoptera, Insecta, Arthropoda, Animalia

worker face view

worker dorsal view

major face view

major lateral view

Major dorsal view (reduced, original).

Line drawings of minor worker dorsal view, major worker dorsal view, from Kempf (1951).


Mexico to Panama, Colombia?, Ecuador. Costa Rica: lowland wet and moist forest sites throughout the country.


Minor worker: eyes situated behind the scrobe, which terminates in front of the eye; lateral border of head convex and upturned above eye, without a rounded excision; frontal carinae concolorous with face; lateral margins of promesonotum with a thin lamina or crest, not dentate or lobed; dorsal and posterior faces of propodeum differentiated; dorsal and anterior faces of petiole differentiated; posterior propodeal spines longer than anterior spines; lateral margin of propodeum with three distinct spines or teeth; posterior face of propodeum usually with distinct longitudinal rugosities.

Major worker: eyes situated behind the scrobe, which terminates in front of the eye; head lacking a cephalic disk; propodeum with lateral spines, lacking foliaceous crest; in dorsal view, pronotum less than twice as wide as propodeum; anterior face of pronotum shiny; mandibles with differentiated lateral face that is flat to concave, and with dorsally projecting tubercle where dorsal surface meets frontal carina (with mandibles closed); posterior third of first gastral tergite with dense layer of appressed, foveate, silver-colored setae, giving glittered appearance, contrasting with smoother and darker anterior two thirds.

Similar species: cordiventris.

Natural History

This species is commonly encountered as workers in recent treefalls or canopy fogging samples from mature rainforest. It can nest in either live or dead branches. I have the following nest collections:

Whole branch sample from canopy of Vochysia ferruginea. A nest occurred in a 1-5cm diameter dead stick, in a 50cm long chamber.

Pasture edge/primary forest. Nest in two internodes of Cecropia insignis sapling.

A 2m section of bare, dead branch had recently fallen from the canopy. I found various ant nests in different parts of the branch, including a C. basalis nest.

Recent treefall; C. basalis workers abundant; an extensive colony occupied the live stems of a bignoniaceous vine tangle; there were many large round entrance holes.

Carapa guianensis felled one day previously; tree was somewhat isolated in low second growth vegetation; C. basalis was nesting in a cavity in a 5cm diameter live branch of the Carapa tree.

Type Data

Cryptocerus basalis F. Smith 1876:608. Holotype queen: Chontales, Nicaragua, erroneously given as Brazil.

Partial Synonymy

Cryptocerus cordatus multispinus Emery 1890:75. Syntype workers from Jimenez, Alajuela, and San Jose, Costa Rica [MCSN]. Synonymized by Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999).

Kempf (1951) was not able to examine the type of basalis and considered it a "species inquirendae." Roy Snelling, in a personal communication to Andrade and Baroni Urbani, suggested it was a senior synonym of multispinus. Andrade and Baroni Urbani were able to confirm this by examining the type. Kempf (1951) also synonymized the similar species cordiventris under multispinus. Thus, ants identified as multispinus during the past 50 years have been a mix of cordiventris and basalis.


This species is common in mature rainforest sites below 500m on the Atlantic slope. Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) report a number of old collection records from the Central Valley. C. basalis occurs on the Osa Peninsula, where it is sympatric with cordiventris, but it is relatively uncommon there (I have only one collection from the Osa). It also occurs in the mid-elevation moist forest on the west side of the Cordillera de Guanacaste (one collection from Estacion Biologica Maritza).

Literature Cited

Andrade, M. L. de, and C. Baroni Urbani. 1999. Diversity and adaptation in the ant genus Cephalotes, past and present (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Stuttgarter Beitrage zur Naturkunde Serie B (Geologie und Palaontologie) 271:1-889.

Emery, C. 1890. Studii sulle formiche della fauna neotropica. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 22:38-80.

Kempf, W. W. 1951. A taxonomic study on the ant tribe Cephalotini (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Rev. Entomol. (Rio J.) 22:1-244.

Smith, F. 1876. Descriptions of new species of Cryptoceridae, belonging to the genera Cryptocerus, Meranoplus, and Cataulacus. Trans. Entomol. Soc. Lond. 1876:603-612.

Page author:

John T. Longino, The Evergreen State College, Olympia WA 98505 USA.longinoj@evergreen.edu

Date of this version: 27 June 2000
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