Platythyrea punctata (F. Smith 1858)

Formicidae, Hymenoptera, Insecta, Arthropoda, Animalia

worker face view

worker lateral view


Florida, Mexico, West Indies, Central America.


Mandible with a basal sulcus that begins at the insertion on the dorsal side and curves obliquely to lateral margin; masticatory margin of mandible edentate; petiole length (dorsal view) less than 0.85mm.

Natural History

My collections of this species have all been individuals captured on tree trunks and low vegetation. The workers are very fast and difficult to capture. They have a powerful sting.

In Costa Rica, I have seen collections from Corcovado National Park, Curu Wildlife Reserve on the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Rosa National Park, and the La Selva Biological Station in the Atlantic lowlands.

This species exhibits a remarkable diversity of reproductive strategies (Schilder et al. 1999, Heinze and Hoelldobler 1995). Morphologically there are regular alate queens, regular workers, and a range of intercastes between them. Males occur but are rare. Morphological queens occur in some colonies, but are not regularly present. In queenless colonies, unmated workers can produce new workers, queens, and males by parthenogenesis. Workers may also be inseminated, and thus possibly reproduce sexually. In spite of the potentially clonal structure of such colonies, workers exhibit agonistic interactions and dominance hierarchies, and usually one individual, often an unmated worker, is reproductively dominant.


Platythyrea punctata, pilosula, and sinuata form part of the punctata complex, of which Brown (1975) writes:

[The species of the punctata complex] are both very close and highly variable, so that species limits are anything but clear. In fact, it is possible that most or all of these forms are variants, in part geographically distributed, of a single species that should bear the prior name P. pilosula. In this work, I have adopted a more conservative course, provisionally recognizing 5 species in the complex even though no one of them can be cleanly separated from all of the other 4.

Platythyrea punctata and sinuata are the common species in Costa Rica. punctata seems to favor open and drier habitats; sinuata favors wet forest habitats. However, the two forms are sympatric at La Selva Biological Station, supporting their specific distinctness.

Type data

Pachycondyla punctata F. Smith 1858:108. Syntype worker, male: Central America.

Literature Cited

Brown, W. L., Jr. 1975. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. V. Ponerinae, tribes Platythyreini, Cerapachyini, Cylindromyrmecini, Acanthostichini, and Aenictogitini. Search, Agriculture, Cornell University 5:1-116.

Heinze, J., Hoelldobler, B. 1995. Thelytokous parthenogenesis and dominance hierarchies in the ponerine ant, Platythyrea punctata. Naturwissenschaften 82:40-41.

Schilder, K., Heinze, J., Hoelldobler, B. 1999. Colony structure and reproduction in the thelytokous parthenogenetic ant Platythyrea punctata (F. Smith) (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux 46:150-158.

Smith, F. 1858. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Formicidae. London: British Museum, 216 pp.

Page author:

John T. Longino, The Evergreen State College, Olympia WA 98505 USA.

Date of this version: 2 September 1999
Previous versions of this page: 31 May 1999
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