|Based on Barden et al., 2017. Note only selected Leptomyrmex species are included.|
L. rufipes has been recorded in rainforest, mesophyll vine forest, Eucalyptus open forest, and wet and dry sclerophyll. Nests occur in cavities in live trees, on the ground at tree bases, in large open mounds, in or under logs, and under rocks.
- 1 Photo Gallery
- 2 Identification
- 3 Distribution
- 4 Biology
- 5 Castes
- 6 Nomenclature
- 7 References
Workers are slender and long-limbed. The black gaster and (usually) dark distal portions of the femora contrast with the otherwise pale orange head, mesosoma and appendages. In body size and coloration, this species resembles Leptomyrmex cnemidatus and Leptomyrmex varians. The pale tibiae of L. rufipes easily distinguish it from the others, which have dark tibiae. The necklike constriction at the posterior margin of the head is also distinctive - this margin is broadly rounded in L. cnemidatus. In L. varians the head narrows beyond the eyes, but does not project into a dorsoventrally compressed ‘neck’. Head shape is sufficient to distinguish L. rufipes from all congeners with the exception of its sister species, Leptomyrmex ruficeps and Leptomyrmex rothneyi. These species can be separated from L. rufipes based on color patterns and geographic range: L. ruficeps is black with a red head and restricted to the Wet Tropics and L. rothneyi is a mottled, dark species confined to the southeast corner of Queensland. (Lucky and Ward 2010)
Identification Keys including this Taxon
This species occupies the widest geographic range of all the Leptomyrmex species, extending from the base of the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland to the northern border of New South Wales. (Lucky and Ward 2010)
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
Check data from AntWeb
These conspicuous ants are most often encountered individually or as small groups of 2 or 3 foragers on the surface of the ground any time of the day or night. Because of their long legs and thin bodies, they superficially resemble spiders. This is especially true when they are disturbed, as they extend their legs, raise their gasters, and run quickly to escape danger. This has led to their being given the common name "spider ants."
Nests are found in soil or in dead wood, either standing or on the ground, and are often at the base of trees. Colony sizes average a few hundred workers and a single queen. In all but a handful of species, the queen is wingless and worker-like, differing from workers only in being slightly larger and with an enlarged mesosoma. In a few species the queens are fully winged, as they are in most other ants.
When a large source of food is found, workers of Leptomyrmex will return to their nest and recruit additional workers to help utilise the newly found resource. They also use workers as "living storage vessels". These special workers, called repletes, accept liquids from returning foragers who transfer their liquid foods to these selected workers. These special workers continue to accept liquids until their gasters become greatly enlarged and extended. When enlarged, repletes cannot escape the nest and remain inside suspended from the ceiling. They can retain these fluids for extended periods and dispense it on demand when food is in short supply.
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- rufipes. Leptomyrmex varians var. rufipes Emery, 1895g: 352 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Lucky & Ward, 2010: 52 (ergatoid q., m.). Subspecies of varians: Wheeler, W.M. 1934c: 104. Raised to species: Lucky & Ward, 2010: 50. Senior synonym of quadricolor: Lucky & Ward, 2010: 50.
- quadricolor. Leptomyrmex varians subsp. quadricolor Wheeler, W.M. 1934c: 104 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Junior synonym of rufipes: Lucky & Ward, 2010: 50.
- Leptomyrmex varians rufipes: Syntype, worker(s), Laidley (as Laidely) and Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Genoa.
- Leptomyrmex varians quadricolor: Syntype, 2 workers, Lankelly Creek, McIlwraith (as McIlthwaite) Range, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, The Natural History Museum.
- Leptomyrmex varians quadricolor: Syntype, 16 workers, Lankelly Creek, McIlwraith (as McIlthwaite) Range, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, Museum of Comparative Zoology.
- Leptomyrmex varians quadricolor: Syntype, 2 workers, Lankelly Creek, McIlwraith (as McIlthwaite) Range, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, Museum Victoria, Melbourne.
- Leptomyrmex varians quadricolor: Syntype, 3 workers, Lankelly Creek, McIlwraith (as McIlthwaite) Range, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, National Museum of Natural History.
Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.
Lucky and Ward (2010) – measurements (n = 11) HL 1.94 –2.43, HW 1.08–1.39, MFC 0.24–0.34, IOD 0.59–0.78, SL 3.62–4.35, EL 0.40–0.46, WL 3.61–4.52, PW 0.96–1.26, DPW 0.37–0.51, HTL 4.52–5.67, HTWmin 0.14–0.19, HTWmax 0.16–0.25, CI 0.54–0.64, SI 2.75–3.35, OI 0.11–0.13, HTC 0.61–0.88.
Medium sized species (HL 1.94 –2.43, HW 1.08–1.39) with head long and slender, excluding mandibles head less than twice as long as broad (CI 0.54–0.64). Head widest at eye level, sides of head subparallel, narrowing anteriorly, genae slightly concave. Posterior to eyes, head narrowing abruptly to dorsoventrally flattened neck-like constriction. Masticatory margin of mandible with 15 to 20 teeth and denticles interspersed. Anterior clypeal margin flat to weakly concave. Eyes positioned approximately at midline of head, eyes small, convex, hairless, not reaching lateral margins. Antennae long and slender, not compressed, scapes surpassing posterior margin of head by 2/3 their length.
Pronotum slender, elongate. Propodeum short, dorsal face of propodeum flat or with transverse impression at anterior end, declivitous face short and convex, propodeal angle very rounded. Petiole triangular in profile, posterior face with slight median longitudinal impression, dorsum rounded, posterior face longer than anterior face. Ventral surface of petiole nearly flat. Gaster elongate-elliptical. Legs very long and slender, not compressed.
Surface very finely shagreened and somewhat shining throughout. Mandibles with a coarse row of punctures along margin. Pubescence pale, sparse. Hairs minimal, confined to clypeus, venter and gaster, 0–5 brown bristles on hind tibiae. Body rufotestaceous with black gaster. Head and antennae rufotestaceous. Femora pale at base and sometimes throughout, but often the distal 1/4 to 3/4 of the femur is black. Tibiae and tarsi yellow, gaster black with the anterior portion of first segment and anal orifice pale yellow.
Lucky and Ward (2010) – Head broader than in worker. Three ocelli deeply set into head in triangular formation, the anteriormost one largest, the posterior two smaller. Pronotum, mesonotum and propodeum more voluminous than in worker. Dorsal face of propodeum convex, lacking transverse impression. Petiole broader than high, with flat dorsal face. Gaster globose, larger than in worker. Scapes, femora and tibiae robust.
Queen coloration similar to that of worker, but with only the first one or two segments of the gaster black, and the remainder rufotestaceous.
Lucky and Ward (2010) - measurements (n = 11) HL 1.57–1.92, HW 1.14–1.37, SL 0.38–0.50, EL 0.59–0.71, HTL 4.61–4.95, CI 0.68–0.77, SI 0.33–0.37, SI2 0.65–0.78.
- Lucky, A. 2011. Molecular phylogeny and biogeography of the spider ants, genus Leptomyrmex Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 59: 281-292. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.03.004
- Lucky, A. & Ward, P.S. 2010. Taxonomic revision of the ant genus Leptomyrmex Mayr. Zootaxa 2688: 1-67. PDF