An adaptable, widespread Madagascar species that is found in many different habitats.
- 1 Identification
- 2 Distribution
- 3 Biology
- 4 Castes
- 5 Nomenclature
- 6 References
A member of the intrudens group.
Keys including this Species
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
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Much of the information concerning the biology of Cataulacus species is anecdotal and fragmentary. Arnold (1917) wrote a succinct general overview of Cataulacus biology that still remains quite informative. Arnold reports "all the species of this genus are tree-ants, usually forming medium sized nests in hollow twigs and stems, or more rarely, under the bark. They are timid and slow-moving insects, often feigning death or dropping rapidly to the ground when disturbed. As Bingham has remarked in connection with this genus (Fauna Brit. India, Formicidae), these ants have the habit of wandering over the trunks of trees and the leaves in what appears to be a very aimless and languid manner. I have occasionally seen them breaking open the earthen tunnels constructed by termites over the trunks of trees and attack the inmates."
Bolton (1974) expands upon this earlier account - "All known Cataulacus species are arboreal or subarboreal nesters and they predominantly forage on the trees and shrubs in which the nests are situated. Very few appear to come down to ground level but in West Africa the small species Cataulacus pygmaeus and Cataulacus brevisetosus may be found foraging in leaf litter or crossing the ground to ascend a tree other than the one in which the nest is situated. The nests themselves are usually constructed in small hollow twigs or stems by the smaller species and in rotten branches or rotted portions of the tree trunk by the larger species. This is rather a generalization as some small species are known which nest in and under rotten bark (e.g. Cataulacus vorticus) and undoubtedly some of the larger forms will eventually be found inhabiting relatively small cavities in plants.
Various species of the genus in Africa are known to inhabit a variety of galls, acacias and bushes as well as large trees. Numerous species have been found nesting in, and have therefore been often collected from, cocoa in Africa. Some of these species are Cataulacus guineensis, Cataulacus pygmaeus, Cataulacus mocquerysi, Cataulacus egenus, Cataulacus vorticus, Cataulacus brevisetosus, Cataulacus kohli and Cataulacus theobromicola. Feeding habits in the genus are mostly unknown but the present author has noted C. guineensis tending aphids and small coccids.
On the plants ants of the genus Cataulacus often occur together with Oecophylla or species of Crematogaster, and appear to be mostly tolerated (at least they are not evicted) by the majority of these forms. Their defence against attackers of these genera lies primarily in their armoured exterior, but their ultimate escape reaction is to curl up and release their grip on the plant, falling to the ground and thus making their escape. The decision to remain immobile and present an armoured surface or to drop from the plant appears to depend upon the size or persistence of the aggressor; larger attackers usually precipitate the latter reaction, but it has also been noted as a result of persistent and unwanted attention by a series of workers of a small Crematogaster species.
The majority of species are forest-dwelling forms, with relatively few adapted to savannah or veldt conditions. Those which do, however, occur in these zones tend to be very successful in their chosen habitat and often possess a wide distribution. A few species are apparently able to exist in any region of Africa providing the basic essentials of nesting-site and food supply are met with, but on the whole the fauna may be divided into forest and non-forest forms."
Some species have nests that can be protected by a single worker's head, as its shape matches the nest entrance and forms an effective plug.
It has more recently been discovered that some species of Cataulacus are efficient gliders (Cataulacus erinaceus, Cataulacus guineensis, Cataulacus mocquerysi and Cataulacus tardus). Workers exhibit directed movement while in freefall that allows them to glide back to regain a hold on the same tree trunk. (Yanoviak et al. 2005, 2007, 2008)
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- ebrardi. Cataulacus ebrardi Forel, 1886c: cv (w.) MADAGASCAR. Forel, 1910a: 20 (q.). See also: Bolton, 1974a: 41.
Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.
Bolton (1974) - TL 4.0 – 4.4, HL 1.00 – 1.08, HW 0.96 – 1.06, CI 96 - 98, EL 0.42 – 0.44, OI 41 - 44, IOD 0.78 – 0.86, SL 0.48 – 0.54, SI 50 - 51, PW 0.82 – 0.90, AL 1.12 – 1.20, MTL 0.50 – 0.56 (2 measured).
Occipital crest absent although the vertex is separated from the occipital surface by an obtuse angle. Occipital corners dentate and with a single tooth upon the occipital margin close to this on each side. Sides of head behind eyes denticulate. Sides of pro- and mesonotum marginate, sparsely denticulate; the mesonotal margins gradually convergent posteriorly but without a marked narrowing immediately behind the pronotum. Sides of propodeum with one or two blunt denticles; the spines quite narrow, short and acute. Dorsal alitrunk completely without sutures. Anteromedian subpostpetiolar process absent. First gastral tergite not marginate laterally.
Dorsum of head with a fine rugoreticulum with reticulate-punctate interspaces. Dorsal alitrunk similarly but much more loosely sculptured on the pronotum, rather more coarsely so upon the propodeum. Mesonotal disc without rugulae, only finely reticulate-punctate, although some fine rugulae may be present towards the lateral margins of the sclerite. Base of first gastral tergite with numerous longitudinal rugae which, however, fade out in the first quarter of the length of the segment and are replaced over the next half of its length by a fine, distinct reticulate-puncturation. This in its turn is replaced on the posterior quarter of the segment by a regular, close, longitudinal rugulation or sulcation.
Erect hairs present upon all dorsal surfaces but on the head and alitrunk they are very short and inconspicuous. On the alitrunk the hairs are longer on the propodeum than on the pronotum. Gastral hairs conspicuous.
Bolton (1974) - Syntype workers, MADAGASCAR: Moroudava (M, Grandidier) (MHN, Geneva) [examined]. The female of this species was described by Forel (1910a:20) from the Amber Mountains of Madagascar but this specimen could not be located during the present study.
- Bolton, B. 1974a. A revision of the Palaeotropical arboreal ant genus Cataulacus F. Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bull. Br. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Entomol. 30: 1-105 (page 41, see also)
- Forel, A. 1886c. Diagnoses provisoires de quelques espèces nouvelles de fourmis de Madagascar, récoltées par M. Grandidier. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 30:ci-cvii. (page cv, worker described)
- Forel, A. 1910a. Glanures myrmécologiques. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 54: 6-32 (page 20, queen described)