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Mystrium mysticum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Amblyoponinae
Genus: Mystrium
Roger, 1862
Type species
Mystrium mysticum
14 species
(Species Checklist)

Mystrium mysticum casent0006030 profile 1.jpg

Mystrium mysticum

Mystrium mysticum casent0006030 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Evolutionary Relationships

  (1 species)

  (22 species)

  (10 species)

  (4 species)

  (25 species)

  (9 species), some Stigmatomma

  (1 species), some Stigmatomma

some Stigmatomma

  (2 species)

  (14 species)

some Stigmatomma

Based on Ward & Fisher, 2016. Note that Stigmatomma is not currently monophyletic and some species are more closely related to those of other genera than to each other.

These ants are rarely encountered and for most species, poorly known. They are predacious, presumably of Chilopoda, but this has been confirmed in only a few species. Nests have been found under rocks or dry logs on the ground and in leaf litter. They lie motionless when disturbed. Their interesting reproductive modes, nesting behavior and colony dynamics have been examined in some species.

Photo Gallery

  • A nest with a large worker, an ergatoid (worker-like) queen, larvae and pupae.
  • A large worker.


The mandibles are long and slender, with numerous (always more than 5) teeth which are similar in size and scattered along the inner margins, and with the tips rounded and with very short teeth. The frontal lobes extend only slightly forward of the antennal sockets and do not cover the clypeus when viewed from the front. The petiole has distinct front and upper faces but lacks a rear face, and its attachment to the gaster is broad and approximately the same height as the petiole so that the upper surfaces of petiole and gaster are separated by at most a shallow impression. The head and body have scattered hairs which are broad and rounded (spatulate).

The long, thin mandibles with rounded tips and the spatulate hairs on the head and body, as well as the shape of the head, are unique to these ants and will allow their ready identification.

Keys including this Genus

Keys to Species in this Genus

Species Groups

Mystrium species groups


World distribution based on political regions. View/Edit Data
Mystrium 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

Mystrium Species Richness.png


Colonies of Mystrium. A Mystrium oberthueri cocoon and a worker; B Mystrium voeltzkowi larvae, workers, and ergatoid queens (reddish colour).

Species of the genus in Madagascar show two distinct reproductive strategies and associated colony structures (Molet et al. 2009). In Mystrium rogeri, each colony has a single dealate queen with a larger (flight) thorax than workers but mandibles are similar to those of the workers. In colonies of other species (e.g. M. `red` in Molet et al. 2006), winged queens are lost and roughly half of the female adults belong to a caste of ergatoid queens which are smaller and allometrically distinct from workers. Only a few ergatoid queens are mated in each colony and they lay all the eggs, while virgin ergatoids behave as laborers inside the nest (e.g. brood care). Species lacking winged queens multiply by fission (Molet et al. 2009).

Bihn & Verhaagh (2007) - Besides their bizarre morphology Mystrium ants have also evolved some unique biological traits. They have a unique defense mechanism in which they snap their mandibles to generate a powerful strike (Gronenberg et al. 1998; Moffett 1986). Molet et al. (2006) demonstrated that, in some species of Mystrium known from Madagascar, normal queens are replaced by wingless reproductives which are smaller than workers. Because Mystrium are rarely encountered, information on their general biology, ecology and behavior remains sparse.


Head of worker Side of worker Top of worker

Worker of M. camillae from the Northern Territory, Australia.


Worker Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 12 • Antennal club 4 • Palp formula 4,3 • Total dental count 19-30 • Spur formula 2 simple, 2 (1 simple-1 pectinate);1 simple, 2 (1 simple, 1 pectinate) • Sting present

Male Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 13 • Antennal club 0 • Total dental count 0 • Spur formula 1 simple- barbulate, 2 (1 simple-barbulate, 1 pectinate)


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

  • MYSTRIUM [Amblyoponinae]
    • Mystrium Roger, 1862a: 245. Type-species: Mystrium mysticum, by monotypy.

Yoshimura and Fisher (2014):

Diagnosis of female The characters uniquely observed in Mystrium within the subfamily Amblyoponinae are given in italics.

A Mystrium rogeri (CASENT0001069) B Mystrium voeltzkowi (CASENT0317584) C Mystrium mysticum (CASENT0429965) D Mystrium janovitzi (CASENT0482696). A, B, C worker D ergatoid queen. A clypeus and mandible in oblique anterior view B mouthparts in oblique anterior view (left galea is omitted) C mandible in oblique lateral view D head in lateral view.

1. Compound eye present.

2. Posterior margin of head strongly expands posteriorly on each side.

3. Anterior margin of clypeus with specialized conical setae.

4. Spatulate setae present on clypeus mesal of mandible insertion (Fig. A).

5. Labrum lacking small dentiform setae arranged horizontally.

6. Palpal formula 4,3.

7. Distinct extension present on the distal edge of second labial palpomere (Fig. B).

8. Mandible linear without a distinct basal angle.

9. Masticatory margin of mandible with two rows of projections: true mandibular teeth on dorsal row and a series of basal denticles on the ventral row; basal ventral denticles larger than true mandibular teeth except for apical teeth.

10. At midlength of mandible, row of basal denticles arranged on ventral edge of man­dibular shaft, distant from mandibular teeth (Fig. C).

11. Mandible twisted inward so that apical tooth is located ventrally (Fig. D).

12. No basal large projection present on basal portion of mandibular inner margin.

13. Ridge present on apical portion of mandible, which is originally dividing ventral and inner surfaces of mandible, inserting dorsally to the apical tooth (Fig. A vs. B: Fulakora mystriops Brown, 1960, see comments).

14. Constriction between petiole and abdominal segment III present.

15. Cinctus 3, constriction between pre- and post-sclerites on abdominal segment IV, distinctly present.

16. One or two stout spines present on posterior portion of abdominal sternum VII (Fig. C).

17. Body surface with spatulate to squamose setae in some workers of all species.

Diagnosis of male The diagnostic characters uniquely observed in Mystrium within the subfamily Amblyoponinae are given in italics.

A Mystrium voeltzkowi (CASENT0002075) B Fulakora mystriops (INB0003690672) C Mystrium mirror (CASENT0317582) D Mystrium janovitzi (CASENT0080644). A, B, C worker D male A, B mandible in oblique mesal view C abdominal segment VII in lateral view D aedeagus in lateral view.

1. Frontal carinae present.

2. Anterior margin (=free margin) of clypeus with specialized conical setae.

3. Antenna consisting of 13 segments.

4. Mandible with single, blunt apical tooth.

5. Palpal formula 4,3.

6. Notaulus distinct or absent.

7. Mesepimeron often lacking distinct posterodorsal lobe (epimeral lobe).

8. Mesotibia with one or two spurs in most cases, rarely indistinct.

9. Metatibia with two spurs.

10. Distinct constriction present between petiole and abdominal segment III in dorsal view.

11. Abdominal segment IV with tergosternal fusion.

12. Pretergite of abdominal segment IV distinctly differentiated from posttergite, with the cinctus between them.

13. Pygostyles absent.

14. Distal margin of abdominal sternum IX convex.

15. Separation between basimere and telomere distinct.

16. Basal projection on cuspis well developed.

17. Basoventral portion of the aedeagus in lateral view extended basally, distal margin of extension rounded (Fig. D).

18. Serrate denticles present on basal portion of ventral margin of aedeagus in lateral view.

19. Pterostigma well developed on forewing.

20. Radial sector on forewing fully present.

21. Radial sector on forewing reaches costal margin.

22. 2r-rs on forewing connected with radial sector posterior to pterostigma.

23. 2rs-m present on forewing.

24. Position of cu-a on forewing variable, close to or far from junction between media and cubitus.

25. Radius present on hindwing.

26. 1rs-m present on hindwing.

27. Media on hindwing present apical to 1rs-m.

See Also

  • Bingham, 1903: 313 (diagnosis)
  • Emery, 1925b: 36 (diagnosis, catalogue)
  • Creighton, 1930a: 184 (all species key)
  • Wheeler, W.M. 1933e: 75 (all species key)
  • Chapman & Capco, 1951: 209 (Asia checklist)
  • Gregg, 1954: 25 (all species key)
  • Moffett, 1985b: 17 (diagnosis, all species revision, key)
  • Dlussky & Fedoseeva, 1988: 77 (synoptic classification)
  • Agosti, 1992: 405 (diagnosis, review of genus, Malesian species key)
  • Bolton, 1994: 51 (synoptic classification)
  • Bolton, 1995a: 1051 (census)
  • Bolton, 1995b: 287 (catalogue)
  • Bolton, 2003: 23, 107 (diagnosis, synopsis).


  • Ashmead, W. H. 1905c. A skeleton of a new arrangement of the families, subfamilies, tribes and genera of the ants, or the superfamily Formicoidea. Can. Entomol. 37: 381-384 (page 383, Mystrium in Pachycondylinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Bihn, J.H. & Verhaagh, M. 2007. A review of the genus Mystrium in the Indo-Australian region. Zootaxa 1642: 1-12. PDF
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 155, Mystrium in Amblyoponinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1960a. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. III. Tribe Amblyoponini (Hymenoptera). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 122: 143-230 (page 169, Revision of genus)
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 15, Mystrium in Ponerinae)
  • Emery, C. 1895l. Die Gattung Dorylus Fab. und die systematische Eintheilung der Formiciden. Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 685-778 (page 766, Mystrium in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Emery, C. 1901b. Notes sur les sous-familles des Dorylines et Ponérines (Famille des Formicides). Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 45: 32-54 (page 34, Mystrium in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 22, Mystrium in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Forel, A. 1893b. Sur la classification de la famille des Formicides, avec remarques synonymiques. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 37: 161-167 (page 162, Mystrium in Amblyoponinae)
  • Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 235, Mystrium in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Gronenberg, W., Hölldobler, B. & Alpert, G.D. (1998) Jaws that snap: control of mandible movements in the ant Mystrium. Journal of Insect Physiology 44: 241–253.PDF
  • Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 715, Mystrium in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
  • Mayr, G. 1865. Formicidae. In: Reise der Österreichischen Fregatte "Novara" um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859. Zoologischer Theil. Bd. II. Abt. 1. Wien: K. Gerold's Sohn, 119 pp. (page 16, Mystrium in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
  • Menozzi, C. 1929e. Revisione delle formiche del genere Mystrium Roger. Zool. Anz. 82: 518-536 (page 518, Revision of genus)
  • Moffett, M. (1986) Mandibles that snap: notes on the ant Mystrium camillae Emery. Biotropica 18: 361–362. PDF
  • Molet, M., B. L. Fisher, F. Ito & C. Peeters. 2009. Shift from independent to dependent colony foundation and evolution of 'multi-purpose' ergatoid queens in Mystrium ants (subfamily Amblyoponinae). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 98:198-207.
  • Molet, M., C. Peeters & B. L. Fisher. 2007a. Winged queens replaced by reproductives smaller than workers in Mystrium ants. Naturwissenschaften. 94:280-287.
  • Molet, M., C. Peeters, I. Follin & B. L. Fisher. 2007b. Reproductive caste performs intranidal tasks instead of workers in the ant Mystrium oberthueri. Ethology. 113:721-729.
  • Roger, J. 1862a. Einige neue exotische Ameisen-Gattungen und Arten. Berl. Entomol. Z. 6: 233-254 (page 245, Mystrium as genus)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 134, Mystrium in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • 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 640, Mystrium in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Yoshimura, M. & Fisher, B.L. 2014. A revision of the ant genus Mystrium in the Malagasy region with description of six new species and remarks on Amblyopone and Stigmatomma (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Amblyoponinae). ZooKeys 394, 1–99. doi:10.3897/zookeys.394.6446