| Cataulacus flagitiosus|
Smith, F., 1862
Nothing is know about the biology of this species.
A member of the taprobanae group. The species is characterized by the presence of prominent pronotal lobes or flanges.
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.
- flagitiosus. Cataulacus flagitiosus Smith, F. 1862a: 49 (w.) INDONESIA (Sulawesi). See also: Bolton, 1974a: 76.
Holotype worker in Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Labelled “SAR. 5.”
Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.
Sides of head behind eyes denticulate, the occipital corner with a subtriangular tooth. Occipital crest complete, with a relatively large first (outer) denticle, mesad of which is a small gap followed by a row of minute denticles which are situated upon a long and very low median projection of the margin, similar to that seen in reticulatus but much reduced. Pronotum on each side with the lateral margination extended as a broad flange, denticulate on its outer edges and notably broader than the part of the pronotum in front of it or the mesonotum behind. Sides of mesonotum and propodeum not marginate, without denticles. In profile the promesonotum forming an even convexity which meets the dorsal surface of the propodeum in a short but distinct step, the propodeal dorsum being on a lower level than that of the promesonotum. Propodeal spines long, strong and divergent, each as long as the complete distance separating it from its twin; the outer margins of the spines not denticulate. Base of gaster marginate, the margination continued onto the sides but fading out posteriorly.
Dorsum of head with a coarse but somewhat effaced rugoreticulum which shows a longitudinal direction, particularly on the median portion; the whole overlaid by a fine and dense reticulate-puncturation. Alitrunk similarly sculptured dorsally, the rugoreticulum distinct only upon the pronotum, grading out posteriorly to a series of faint, regular longitudinal rugae which traverse the mesonotum. Propodeal dorsum with a faint rugoreticulum; the whole alitrunk covered with a fine dense reticulate-puncturation. Propodeal declivity with a few transverse rugae. First gastral tergite with irregular and often broken longitudinal rugulae and a dense reticulate-puncturation. Dorsa of head, alitrunk and gaster with a few scattered, very short, thick hairs; the margins of these regions with small hairs which project laterally.
Bolton (1974) - Holotype worker, SULAWESI: Tondano (A. R. Wallace) (UM, Oxford) [examined].
- 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 76, see also)
- Smith, F. 1862a. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects collected by Mr. A. R. Wallace in the islands of Ceram, Celebes, Ternate, and Gilolo. [concl.]. J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. Zool. 6: 49-66 (page 49, worker described)