Cephalotes multispinosus (Norton 1868)

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, Costa Rica, Panama (Andrade and Baroni Urbani 1999, Hunt 1983). Costa Rica: common throughout the lowlands, both dry and wet forest habitats, but as yet unknown from the Osa Peninsula. One old record from Alajuela.


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; lateral border of propodeum a foliaceous crest, which may be continuous along entire border or more developed anteriorly; lateral profile of petiole forming a shallow convexity, not differentiated into distinct anterior and dorsal faces; disc of gaster, mesosomal dorsum, and vertex concolorous gray black (anterolateral flanges of gaster, lateral crests of mesosoma, frontal carinae lighter colored).

Major worker: eyes situated behind the scrobe, which terminates in front of the eye; head lacking a cephalic disk; propodeum with lateral foliaceous crest, lacking spines.

Natural History

This species can be found in wet forest and dry forest habitats. Workers can be found commonly in recent treefalls. It seems to nest exclusively in live stems, and also occurs as an opportunistic inhabitant of ant-plants. I have found nests in the canopies of Licania sp., Hieronyma oblonga, and Coussapoa; in domatia of Cordia alliodora; and in Cecropia saplings. Coccoidea may occur inside the nests.

Norton (1868) wrote

This is the most common species of Cryptocerus [=Cephalotes] in the environs of Cordova, where it lives in the trunk of certain trees, especially those of Croton sanguiferum, Cedrela odorata, Spondias chilias. These ants show little vivacity, remaining stationary a good part of the day at the entrance of the holes which conduct to their nest. In the middle of the day one sees them running about fallen trunks, without apparent order or aim. When one attempts to seize them, they elevate the abdomen while running, after the manner ascribed to another kind of ant, the Crematogaster montezumia.

Type Data

Cryptocerus multispinosus Norton 1868:72. Syntype worker, soldier: Mexico, Cordoba [specimens lost according to Andrade and Baroni Urbani].

Partial Synonymy

Cryptocerus gibbosus biguttatus Emery 1890:73. Syntype worker, soldier, queen: Costa Rica, Jimenez [MCSN]. Proposed NEW SYNONYMY.

Paracryptocerus multispinosus biguttatus Emery: Kempf 1951.

Cephalotes biguttatus Emery; Andrade and Baroni Urbani 1999.


Kempf (1951) differentiated multispinosus and biguttatus with this key couplet:

Laterotergite of pronotum longitudinally striated; sides of declivous face without a testaceous crest at the posterior half: multispinosus

Laterotergite of pronotum finely reticulate-punctate, not striated; sides of declivous face of epinotum with a testaceous crest along its entire length: multispinosus biguttatus.

Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) used this key couplet:

Body shining. Foveae sparse. Propodeum with reduced, rounded lateral expansions: biguttatus

Body opaque. Foveae denser. Propodeum with projecting triangular expansions: multispinosus

From my records the distinguishing features of multispinosus and biguttatus do not hold up, and they seem to be continuously variable within Costa Rica. For example, this figure shows variation in the extent of the lateral propodeal crest. I consider biguttatus a synonym of multispinosus.

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.

Hunt, J. H. 1983. Foraging and morphology in ants: the role of vertebrate predators as agents of natural selection. pp 83-104 in P. Jaisson (ed.), Social insects in the tropics. Univ. Paris.

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

Norton, E. 1868. Notes on Mexican ants. Am. Nat. 2:57-72.

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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