Hypoponera punctatissima (Roger 1859) and related species

Formicidae, Hymenoptera, Insecta, Arthropoda, Animalia

worker face view

worker lateral view

Osa Peninsula specimen pictured above. Images of Atlantic Coast specimen: worker lateral view (reduced, original), face view (reduced, original).


The complex contains species that are pantropical tramps, occurring widely in the tropics and subtropics.


Face sublucid, with puncta smaller than interspaces; eyes very small, circular, appearing as a single facet or up to about 5 nearly fused facets; petiolar node thick in lateral view, with anterior and posterior faces nearly parallel, very weakly converging, and with a broadly rounded to nearly flat dorsal face; color dirty yellow brown. Measurement data.

Natural History

This is a widespread tramp species. Wilson and Taylor (1967) wrote:

H. punctatissima is virtually cosmopolitan in the warmer parts of the globe, and has undoubtedly been carried extensively and often by man. Gleadowi [another species in the complex] is almost as widespread, but it is presently unknown from the Papuasian and Poynesian areas. Both species appear to be of Old World, probably African, origin. The known males of both are peculiar, highly worker-like ergatoids, and it appears that normal winged males are never produced.

In Costa Rica I know the punctatissima complex from these collections:

Near Cahuita on the Atlantic coast: coconut strand at beach edge; workers were among material extracted from debris on the ground.

Hitoy Cerere Biological Reserve: a lowland wet forest site on the Atlantic slope; in secondgrowth vegetation; nesting under loose bark of a dead, vertical Cecropia trunk.

Corcovado National Park, Sirena: a wet forest site on the Pacific coast; nesting under epiphytes in an old treefall.

Corcovado National Park, Mouth of the Rio Corcovado, half way between Sirena and Llorona: in mangroves; nesting under loose bark of a 45mm diameter dead stick, suspended 1.5m high.

Taxonomic Notes

From Wilson and Taylor (1967):

H. punctatissima is the nominate species of a taxonomically confused group, containing a large number of synonymous names. Recent unpublished studies by Taylor suggest that only two valid species, punctatissima and gleadowi Forel, are involved. Gleadowi is undoubtedly distinct from punctatissima, but the present concept of the latter could conceivably include 2 or even 3 valid species.

Creighton's Ants of North America (1950) has the following couplet in the key to species of Ponera:
Antennae of the male (ergataner) twelve-jointed; pubescence distinct but fine...........ergatandria
Antennae of the male (ergataner) thirteen-jointed; pubescence coarser...........oblongiceps

oblongiceps was synonymized under gleadowi, and ergatandria was listed as a synonym of punctatissima by Taylor (1968). Smith (1979) listed punctatissima and gleadowi in the catalog of North American Hymenoptera, with ergatandria a synonym of punctatissima. He listed the range of punctatissima as the southern tier of states in the USA, Central America, W. Indies, Europe, and N. Africa, adding "Nearly cosmopolitan in warmer parts of the world." The range of gleadowi was listed as Priest Bridge, Maryland, and Asia, followed by "Apparently a widespread tramp species. Possibly introduced. No other confirmed records from the U.S." Kempf (1972), in the catalog of Neotropical ants, listed ergatandria (range Curacao, St. Vincent (type locality), Dominica, Mona, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bahamas, Mexico, Costa Rica, Paraguay) and punctatissima (range central and western Europe, on a boat between Cuba and Trinidad). gleadowi is not in the catalog. Bolton (1995) retained ergatandria, along with punctatissima and gleadowi, as valid species. Thus, there is considerable confusion in the literature regarding this complex.

Note of 26 March 2007: Franois Vankerkhoven (francois.vankerkhoven@formicidae.be) alerted me to Seifert (2003). Seifert showed that in Europe there are two very similar species, Hypoponera punctatissima and H. schauinslandi, and that detailed measurements and discriminant functions are needed to separate them. I measured one of my Costa Rican specimens and it did not clearly match either one of them. Thus it would be best to refer to Costa Rican material as "cf. punctatissima" until the group is better known.

Type Data

Ponera ergatandria Forel 1893:365. Syntype worker, queen, male: West Indies, Saint Vincent.

Ponera gleadowi Forel, in Emery 1895:60 (footnote and in key). Syntype worker: India.

Ponera punctatissima Roger 1859:246, pl. 7, fig. 7. Syntype worker, queen: Germany.

Literature Cited

Bolton, B. 1995. A new general catalogue of the ants of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 504 pp.

Creighton, W. S. 1950. The ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 104:1-585.

Emery, C. 1895. Sopra alcune formiche della fauna mediterranea. Mem. R. Accad. Sci. Ist. Bologna (5)5:59-75 [pagination of separate: 291-307].

Forel, A. 1893. Formicides de l'Antille St. Vincent, recoltees par Mons. H. H. Smith. Trans. Entomol. Soc. Lond. 1893:333-418.

Kempf, W. W. 1972. Catalogo abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical. Stud. Entomol. 15:3-344.

Roger, J. 1859. Beitrage zur Kenntniss der Ameisen-Fauna der Mittelmeerlander. Berliner Entomologische Zeitschrift 3:225-259.

Seifert, B. 2003. Hypoponera punctatissima (Roger) and H. schauinslandi (Emery) - Two morphologically and biologically distinct species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Abhandlungen und Berichte des Naturkundemuseums Gšrlitz 75:61-81.

Smith, D. R. 1979. Superfamily Formicoidea. Pp. 1323-1467 in: Krombein, K. V., Hurd, P. D., Smith, D. R., Burks, B. D. (eds.) Catalog of Hymenoptera in America north of Mexico. Volume 2. Apocrita (Aculeata). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. i-xvi, 1199-2209.

Taylor, R. W. 1968. Nomenclature and synonymy of the North American ants of the genera Ponera and Hypoponera (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Entomol. News 79:63-66.

Wilson, E. O., Taylor, R. W. 1967. The ants of Polynesia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pac. Insects Monogr. 14:1-109.

Page author:

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

Date of this version: 26 March 2007.
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