Ectatomma ruidum

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Ectatomma ruidum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ectatomminae
Tribe: Ectatommini
Genus: Ectatomma
Species: E. ruidum
Binomial name
Ectatomma ruidum
(Roger, 1860)

Ectatomma ruidum casent0178705 profile 1.jpg

Ectatomma ruidum casent0178705 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


Prefers nesting in open areas, where this ant can occur in high density. These ants have a subset of foragers that specialize on food robbing, where individuals will enter other colonies' nests to steal their food.

At a Glance • Facultatively polygynous  



Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Brazil (type locality), Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


When alarmed, workers will feign death.

McGlynn et al. (2015) provided evidence to suggest thieves, stealing food from their non-natal nest, are a distinct caste of workers that specialize in this behavior. They also nicely summarize what is known about this behavior in this species.

In E. ruidum, intraspecific thievery among adjacent colonies is readily observed (Guénard and McGlynn, 2013). Ectatomma ruidum thieves specialize in stealing food from another colony (i.e. the ‘victim nest’); the cuticular hydrocarbon profile of thieves is intermediate between the colony to which they are bringing food and the colony from which they are removing food, presumably obfuscating nestmate recognition cues, and thieves are not known to switch to a nonthieving foraging habit (Breed et al., 1992; Jeral, Breed, and Hibbard, 1997). Thievery is thought to be evolutionarily stable only at low frequencies (Brockmann & Barnard, 1979; Ruxton and Broom, 1999), but thieving is a common activity in E. ruidum colonies, at least in Costa Rica and Panama (Breed, McGlynn, Stocker, and Klein,1999). Like other social insects, colonies of E. ruidum are less vigilant against interlopers when food is relatively abundant in the environment (Guénard and McGlynn, 2013).

Thievery in E. ruidum is uniquely overt and widespread, and is undetected in other ant species. Intraspecific kleptoparasitic behaviour in E. ruidum persists despite the fact that colonies are more vigilant against thieves when more thieving occurs (Jandt, Hunt, and McGlynn, 2015). It is broadly accepted that the ecological success of social insect colonies emerges from the collective ability to acquire resources and defend them from competitors. Thievery within E. ruidum suggests very poor abilities in protecting resources, but this species is nevertheless among the most widespread and locally abundant ants in the Neotropics (Schatz and Lachaud, 2008). To address this apparent contradiction, we wish to understand how foragers that act as thieves and collect resources from the insides of neighbouring nests are distinct from ‘normal’ (nonthief) foragers that collect resources from the surrounding leaf litter.

As regards the findings of their study of thieves as a distinctive type of worker, they found: Every colony of E. ruidum simultaneously maintains individuals that collect the same type of food item, but with two distinct foraging strategies. Workers of these foraging types are behaviourally distinct from one another but rely upon a common pool of food resources. The disparate behaviours that make up these two strategies effectively serve to repartition the original pool of resources gained during primary foraging. The first foraging strategy is ‘normal’, with workers that collect food from within their territories. These individuals find food within the home range, walk in a straight line back to the nest, encounter other ants along the way, interact with them, and carry on in a nonchalant fashion. The second foraging strategy is thievery, in which workers collect food from inside a colony that is outside their own colony's home range. These individuals walk more slowly, pause more frequently and avoid encountering conspecifics en route. These individuals are also more prone to reverse direction when perturbed and to drop their pilfered food items when grabbed.


Queen microgynes — an isometric reduction of the large morph — are only known from Mexico (Lachaud et al. 1999a, b). Microgyny in this species is related to polygyny and dependent colony founding (Lachaud et al. 1999a, b; Lenoir et al. 2011). Young mated microgynes are readopted by a conspecific colony, most often their natal nest, and can contribute to colony growth by egg laying. These small queens represent one of two independently derived queen reductions in the genus (Nettel-Hernanz et al. 2015).


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

  • ruidum. Ponera (Ectatomma) ruida Roger, 1860: 306 (w.q.) BRAZIL. Borgmeier, 1934: 95 (m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1952a: 131 (l.). Combination in Ectatomma: Mayr, 1862: 732. Senior synonym of scabrosa: Roger, 1862c: 292; of aztecum: Kugler, C. & Brown, 1982: 2.
  • scabrosa. Ectatomma scabrosa Smith, F. 1862b: 31 (w.) PANAMA. Junior synonym of ruidum: Roger, 1862c: 292.
  • aztecum. Ectatomma aztecum Emery, 1901a: 50 (w.) MEXICO. Junior synonym of ruidum: Kugler, C. & Brown, 1982: 2. See also: Brown, 1958g: 295.

The following notes on F. Smith type specimens have been provided by Barry Bolton (details):

Ectatomma scabrosa

Three worker syntypes in The Natural History Museum. The syntypes are flat-mounted, each on a roughly hexagonal piece of card. Along the basal border, behind the pin, is “Panama,” and on the reverse of the card the number “13.”



  • Borgmeier, T. 1934. Contribuiça~o para o conhecimento da fauna mirmecológica dos cafezais de Paramaribo, Guiana Holandesa (Hym. Formicidae). Arch. Inst. Biol. Veg. (Rio J.) 1: 93-111 (page 95, male described)
  • Kugler, C.; Brown, W. L., Jr. 1982. Revisionary and other studies on the ant genus Ectatomma, including the description of two new species. Search Agric. (Ithaca N. Y.) 24: 1-8 (page 2, Senior synonym of aztecum)
  • Lenoir, J.C., Lachaud, J.P., Nettel, A., Fresneau, D. Poteaux, C. 2011. The role of microgynes in the reproductive strategy of the neotropical ant Ectatomma ruidum. Naturwissenschaften, 98: 347-356.
  • Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 732, Combination in Ectatomma)
  • McGlynn, T. P., R. Graham, J. Wilson, J. Emerson, J. M. Jandt, and A. H. Jahren. 2015. Distinct types of foragers in the ant Ectatomma ruidum: typical foragers and furtive thieves. Animal Behaviour. 109:243-247. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.08.024
  • Nettel-Hernanz, A., J. P. Lachaud, D. Fresneau, R. A. Lopez-Munoz, and C. Poteaux. 2015. Biogeography, cryptic diversity, and queen dimorphism evolution of the Neotropical ant genus Ectatomma Smith, 1958 (Formicidae, Ectatomminae). Organisms Diversity & Evolution. 15:543-553. doi:10.1007/s13127-015-0215-9
  • Roger, J. 1860. Die Ponera-artigen Ameisen. Berl. Entomol. Z. 4: 278-312 (page 306, worker, queen described)
  • Roger, J. 1862c. Synonymische Bemerkungen. 1. Ueber Formiciden. Berl. Entomol. Z. 6: 283-297 (page 292, Senior synonym of scabrosa)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1952a. The ant larvae of the subfamily Ponerinae - Part I. Am. Midl. Nat. 48: 111-144 (page 131, larva described)