Cataulacus porcatus

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Cataulacus porcatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Cataulacus
Species: C. porcatus
Binomial name
Cataulacus porcatus
Emery, 1899

Cataulacus porcatus casent0011075 profile 1.jpg

Cataulacus porcatus casent0011075 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

A Madagascar endemic that inhabits a wide range of forest types.

Identification

A member of the huberi group. I have not been able to examine the types of this interesting species. The short characterization given below is summarized from the original description. Emery states that the species is close to Cataulacus regularis. In particular his description of the alitrunk and sculpturation are reminiscent of regularis, but as he points out there are noticeable differences in the sculpturation, and also regularis has the occipital corners unarmed. (Bolton 1974)

Keys including this Species

Distribution

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Malagasy Region: Madagascar (type locality).

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

Worker

Queen

Male

Nomenclature

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

  • porcatus. Cataulacus porcatus Emery, 1899f: 286 (w.q.) MADAGASCAR. See also: Bolton, 1974a: 25.

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 3.5 – 4.5.

Occipital corners with two small, obtuse teeth each and the occipital crest apparently absent. Preocular teeth present. Dorsal surface of head strongly convex so that the large eyes are more or less lateral; antennal scrobes strongly deflected in their posterior portions. Alitrunk marginate; the pronotal margination with two subrectangular teeth anteriorly, separated by an incision. Behind this the margin is feebly sinuate and terminates in a broad, rounded projection. Mesonotum separated from propodeum by a tooth and an incision laterally. Propodeum furnished with a pair of short spines. Promesonotal suture effaced, metanotal groove a faint sulcus which does not break the sculpturation. Petiole with a small tooth in the middle of its upper sides.

Head, alitrunk and segments of pedicel with strongly undulate, longitudinal sulcate-rugation; with only 12-13 present across the posterior portion of the mesonotum. Sculpturation of head finer than that of alitrunk and some rugae are convergent towards a point on the midline situated on a level with the anterior margins of the eyes. Gaster finely punctate and with fine, longitudinal rugae.

A few short, clavate hairs present upon the alitrunk and legs.

Type Material

Bolton (1974) - Syntype worker, female, MADAGASCAR: Antongil Bay, 1897-98 (Mocquerys) (probably in MCSN, Genoa).

References