Cataulacus latus

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Cataulacus latus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Cataulacus
Species: C. latus
Binomial name
Cataulacus latus
Forel, 1891

Cataulacus latus P casent0217828.jpg

Cataulacus latus D casent0217828.jpg

Specimen Label

Wroughton (1892) reported that Cataulacus latus nests in hollow tree branches. The nest he examined contained 'the pupae of some kind of Lycaena (?)' which he was unable to rear through to the imago.

Identification

A member of the taprobanae group. The large size, relatively small eyes and broad head serve to distinguish this species from others of the taprobanae-group. It also differs by the presence of a frontal groove and is separable from its closest relative, latissimus, by the absence of gastral margination and flange-like lateral expansions of the pronotum. (Bolton 1974)

Keys including this Species

Distribution

Known from Borneo and India.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Oriental Region: Bangladesh, India (type locality), Myanmar.

Distribution based on AntMaps

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Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Biology

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)

Castes

Nomenclature

The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • latus. Cataulacus latus Forel, 1891b: 144 (m.) INDIA. Forel, 1903a: 706 (w., in key); Bingham, 1903: 122 (q.). See also: Bolton, 1974a: 78.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.

Description

Worker

Bolton (1974) - TL 5.4 – 7.5, HL 1.38 – 1.74, HW 1.66 – 2.23, CI 120 - 131, EL 0.36 – 0.46, OI 19 - 22, SL 0.68 – 0.82, SI 37 - 41, IOD 1.36 – 1.82, PW 1.28 – 1.86, AL 1.42 – 2.00, MTL 0.90 – 1.18 (10 measured).

Frontal groove usually distinct from the apex of the frontal triangle to the level of the anterior margins of the eyes, its track marked by an impression or a polished strip of cuticle. Occipital crest marked out by a row of denticles of which the first (outer) is the largest, often as large as the denticle at the occipital corner. The crest is usually incomplete medially, and this gap appears to be relatively broader in smaller individuals than in larger ones. Sides of head behind eyes denticulate. Eyes relatively small; ocelli usually absent but one or two may be developed. Lateral margins of pronotum denticulate, also with one or two denticles on the mesonotal and propodeal margins and on the outer edges of the propodeal spines. A break in denticulation coupled with a V- or U-shaped impression is present between pro- and mesonotum and the latter and the propodeum in dorsal view. Propodeal spines well developed. Gaster not marginate laterally.

Bolton 1974 fig 1-6
Sculpturation of head basically a fine, dense reticulate-puncturation with scattered larger punctures distributed over the frons and vertex. Behind the eye and between it and the occipital corner a fine rugoreticulum is present. Dorsum of alitrunk finely longitudinally rugose or reticulate-rugose, with an overlying fine, dense reticulate-puncturation. Gaster finely and densely reticulate-punctate with numerous very fine, broken longitudinal rugulae.

Dorsal surfaces of head and alitrunk without hairs or (usually) with a few minute, flattened hairs, not easily seen. Lateral margins of head and alitrunk with short, blunt hairs, also present on the pedicel, gaster and appendages.

Queen

Bolton (1974) - TL 9.2 – 10.4, HL 1.84 – 1.90, HW 2.10 – 2.20, CI 110 - 119, EL 0.46 – 0.50, OI 21 - 24, IOD 1.74 – 1.82, SL ca 0.84, SI ca 39, PW 1.90 – 2.04, AL 2.60 – 2.84, MTL 1.16 – 1.23 (6 measured).

Similar to worker but with the frontal groove better developed, usually distinct to the level of the anterior ocellus. Denticles of the occipital crest indistinct except for the first (outermost) in the series on each side; the denticles of the sides of the head behind the eyes very much reduced or absent. Sculpturation of head as worker but with distinct rugae behind the eyes. Mesoscutum and scutellum with rather coarse but flattened longitudinal rugae overlaid with a fine, dense reticulate-puncturation. Propodeal spines much reduced. Arrangement of hairs similar to worker but the dorsum of the pronotum with short hairs present, particularly in a transverse row just anterior to the promesonotal suture.

Male

Bolton (1974) - TL 6.0 – 7.0, HL 1.14 – 1.26, HW 1.34 – 1.60, CI 117 - 131, EL 0.40 – 0.44, OI 26 - 29, IOD 1.16 – 1.30, SL 0.68 – 0.76, SI 45 - 50, PW 1.22 – 1.45, AL 1.84 – 2.14 (3 measured).

Frontal groove distinct as strip of polished cuticle running from the apex of the frontal triangle to the anterior (median) ocellus. Sides of head behind eyes denticulate, terminating in a larger tooth at the occipital corner. Mesad of this lie the denticles marking the occipital crest, the first being distinctly the largest of the series. Anterior arms of notauli distinct, with coarse cross-ribs, the spaces between which are shiny. Posterior arm less well developed. Parapsidal furrows present on the posterior half of the sclerite as polished strips of cuticle. Margins of pronotum jagged; propodeal spines absent, replaced by a pair of acute angles. Dorsum of head, alitrunk and petiole with a fine rugoreticulum, the interspaces sharply and densely reticulate-punctate; the rugoreticulum best defined on the head, propodeum and petiole, less distinct on the thorax proper. Gaster finely and densely reticulate-punctate with a few radiating basigastric costulae. Parameres dorsoventrally flattened, the exposed portions smooth and shiny. Dorsal surfaces of head, alitrunk and gaster equipped with erect hairs.

Type Material

Bolton (1974) - Syntype males, INDIA: Poona, 16.vi.18go (R. C. Wroughton) (MHN, Geneva) [examined].

Note on the types. Although Forel only made mention of the male in his original description of this species, the type-series (in MHN, Geneva) also includes three females with the same data as the males. These males and females bear a red 'typus' label and this is most probably the series referred to by Wroughton (1892 : 178) as '120. Cat. latus (Forel MS). Poona Dists. 14.6.90, worker, male, female'. The workers from this series appear to be lost and there is a two day discrepancy in the data label date on the specimens from that given by Wroughton. However, this must be considered as the complete type-series.

Bearing yellow 'cotypus' labels are three females and three workers from Kanara, LVI/6 (Wroughton) and three more males from Poona (Wroughton). Three more workers from this Kanara series are in USNM, Washington bearing a red 'cotype' label and a note stating 'not a type?' signed M.R.S. (M. R. Smith?). These specimens from series LVI/6 are not types, in any sense of the word.

References