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Metapone greeni
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Metapone
Forel, 1911
Type species
Metapone greeni
28 species
(Species Checklist)


Metapone greeni

The genus Metapone Forel remains one of the most unusual and enigmatic ant genera in the Old World. Most of the 17 described taxa are known from very few specimens, often single queens or males collected during dispersal flights and occasionally workers collected from dead wood. Forel (1911) established Metapone based upon a series of workers, larvae and reproductive pupae of the type species Metapone greeni Forel, collected from Peradenyia, Sri Lanka. In the same paper, Forel designated Metapone as the type genus of a new tribe Metaponini and provisionally placed this tribe into a new special section among the Ponerinae, which he called the Promyrmicinae.

Metapone was properly transferred to the subfamily Myrmicinae a year later by Emery (1912) when he realized that the larvae were characteristic of the Myrmicinae and not the Ponerinae. Unfortunately, Emery misinterpreted certain ponerine-like morphological traits of Metapone as primitive rather than as derived adaptations to a highly specialized habit of foraging in galleries of wood. As a result, Emery retained Forel’s section Promyrmicinae, transferred it to the Myrmicinae, and expanded it to include the tribes Metaponini and Pseudomyrmicini. Wheeler (1919) was able to clear up much of the earlier confusion after additional species of Metapone became available for study. Wheeler rejected the term Promyrmicinae even though he could not determine the position of the Metaponini among the other tribes within the Myrmicinae. The genera Metapone, Liomyrmex, Vollenhovia and Xenomyrmex were included until recently in the tribe Metaponini (Bolton, 1994, 1995). Bolton (2003) later considered Metapone to be the only genus in tribe Metaponini. The placement of Metapone within the Myrmicinae (tribe Crematogastrini) has been confirmed by molecular data (Ward et al. 2015).

Metapone is widely distributed throughout the Indo-Australian, Oriental and Malagasy Regions (Taylor, 1991; Bolton, 1995; Eguchi, 1998; Alpert, 2007). Even though specimens are rare, new species continue to be discovered. Eguchi (1998) described a new species from Borneo, an undescribed Metapone has been found in Gabon (B. Bolton, B. Fisher, pers. comm.) and another undescribed Metapone was found recently in New Caledonia (C. Burwell, pers. comm.) and in the Philippines (Gary Alpert, pers. comm.). There are several series of undescribed Metapone from Papua New Guinea and Australia in the Australian National Insect Collection. A species of Metapone was recently collected in South Africa (Brigitte Braschler ).


Character States


Antennal Count = 11 segments with a 3-segmented club. Palp Formula: 2 maxillary palp segments and 3 labial palp segments. Total Dental Count = 4-5 teeth on the masticatory margin. Spur Formula = 1 pectinate spur on the mesotibia and 1 pectinate spur on the metatibia.


Antennal Count = 12 segmented antennae with no club. Palp Formula = 2 maxillary palp segments and 2 labial palp segments. Total Dental Count = 3-5 teeth on the masticatory margin. Spur Formula = 1 pectinate spur on the mesotibia and 1 pectinate spur on the metatibia.

Metapone has the following derived characters (Bolton 2003):

  • Procoxae smaller than meso- and metacoxae
  • Metafemur highly anteroposteriorly compressed, extremely deep in anterior view
  • Apex of mesotibia, metatibia and basitarsi of all legs with traction spines
  • Presclerites of abdominal segment IV very large
  • Articulation of abdominal segments III and IV very broad

Keys including this Genus


World distribution based on political regions. View/Edit Data
Metapone Distribution.png Worlddistribution legend.jpg

Species richness

Species richness by country based on regional taxon lists (countries with darker colours are more species-rich). View Data

Metapone Species Richness.png


From the very first collections, Metapone workers have been found in association with termites. The type species of the genus, Metapone greeni, was found in “galleries in a decayed branch, which was also infested by two species of termites” (Forel, 1911, quoting E.E. Green, the collector). Subsequently, Wheeler (1919, 1936) listed M. greeni as an inquiline of termites and suggested that all species of Metapone probably form small colonies and live in or near the galleries of termites in dead wood. Taylor (1991) has found several undescribed species of Metapone in association with termites in Australia. In Papua New Guinea, Metapone were found in rotten wood with termites of the genus Prorhinotermes (Leigh Miller, personal communication). Eguchi (1998) reported that Metapone quadridentata from Borneo “was collected from the galleries of a termite nest in rotten wood”. Gregg (1958) obtained from Alfred E. Emerson, the noted termite specialist, two new species of Metapone (Metapone emersoni and Metapone madagascarica) from a series of termites collected from Madagascar by Harold Kirby in 1935. Additional specimens of M. madagascarica were collected in association with Coptotermes truncatus and Cryptotermes sp. (Brian Fisher, written communication). Though the evidence is anecdotal, the pattern of obligatory association with termites is clear.

Workers and larvae of Metapone emersoni. From Andohahela NP, southern Madagascar. Photo by Christian Peeters.


All species of Metapone are known to have winged queens and workers. Metapone madagascarica is a highly unusual species in having both normal winged males and worker-like ergatoid males without wings. Both forms have been found together in the same nest.


Worker Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 11 • Antennal club 3 • Palp formula 2,3; 1,3 • Total dental count 4-5 • Spur formula 1 pectinate, 1 pectinate • Sting present

Male Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 12 • Antennal club 0 • Palp formula 2,2; 1,2 • Total dental count 3-5 • Spur formula 1 pectinate, 1 pectinate


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

  • METAPONE [Myrmicinae: Metaponini]
    • Metapone Forel, 1911h: 447. Type-species: Metapone greeni, by monotypy.


  • Alpert, G. D. 2007. A review of the ant genus Metapone Forel from Madagascar, pp. 8-18. In Snelling, R. R., B. L. Fisher, and P. S. Ward (eds). Advances in ant systematics (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): homage to E. O. Wilson – 50 years of contributions. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute, 80.
  • Bolton, B. 1994. Identification guide to the ant genera of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 222 pp. (page 105, Metapone in Myrmicinae, Metaponini)
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 257, Metapone in Myrmicinae, Metaponini)
  • Emery, C. 1912b. Études sur les Myrmicinae. [I-IV.]. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 56: 94-105 (page 96, Metapone in Myrmicinae, Metaponini)
  • Emery, C. 1914e. Intorno alla classificazione dei Myrmicinae. Rend. Sess. R. Accad. Sci. Ist. Bologna Cl. Sci. Fis. (n.s.) 18: 29-42 (page 40, Metapone in Myrmicinae, Metaponini)
  • Emery, C. 1921c. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Myrmicinae. [part]. Genera Insectorum 174A:1-94 94: 1-94 + 7 (page 19, Metapone in Myrmicinae, Metaponini)
  • Forel, A. 1911l. Sur le genre Metapone n. g. nouveau groupe des Formicides et sur quelques autres formes nouvelles. Rev. Suisse Zool. 19: 445-459 (page 446, 447, Metapone in Ponerinae, Metaponini; Metapone as genus)
  • Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 240, Metapone in Myrmicinae, Metaponini)
  • Hölldobler, B.; Liebig, J.; Alpert, G. D. 2002. Gamergates in the myrmicine genus Metapone (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Naturwissenschaften 89:305-307. 131492
  • Kusnezov, N. 1960a [1959]. La posición sistemática del género Metapone Forel (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Acta Zool. Lilloana 18: 119-126 (page 119, Review of genus)
  • Taylor, R. W.; Alpert, G. D. 2016. The myrmicine ant genus Metapone Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): a global taxonomic review with descriptions of twelve new species. Zootaxa 4105(6):501-545. [2016-04-27] PDF
  • Ward, PS, Brady SG, Fisher BL, Schultz TR 2015. The evolution of myrmicine ants: phylogeny and biogeography of a hyperdiverse ant clade (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Systematic Entomology 40: 61–81. DOI: 10.1111/syen.12090
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1919j. The ants of the genus Metapone Forel. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 12: 173-191 (page 177, Metapone in Myrmicinae, Metaponini)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1922i. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. VII. Keys to the genera and subgenera of ants. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 45: 631-710 (page 661, Metapone in Myrmicinae, Metaponini)