| Formica coarctata, now Ponera coarctata|
| 58 species|
5 fossil species
Species of Ponera form small nests with less than 100 workers in protected places on the ground. The most common nesting sites are in the soil with or without coverings, in cracks or between rocks, in rotten wood, or under bark or moss on rotten logs. They forage cryptically in leaf litter on the ground and are often collected using Berlese funnels.
The mandibles are triangular and with numerous small teeth along their inner margins. The forward sections of the frontal lobes and antennal sockets are very close together and are separated by at most a very narrow rearward extension of the clypeus. The node of the petiole has distinct front, top and rear faces. The underside of the petiole (subpetiolar process) with a translucent thin spot near the front and a sharp angle or pair of small teeth near the rear. The tibiae of the hind legs each have a single large, comb-like (pectinate) spur at their tips (best viewed from the front).
Ponera belongs to a set of very similar genera which includes Cryptopone, Hypoponera and Pachycondyla. Because these genera have the same overall body shape they are often confused. Ponera is unique, however, in having the lower surface of the petiole elaborate, with a thin, circular spot near the front and a sharp angle or small pair of spines towards the rear.
Occurs in the eastern Palearctic and Indo-Australian region from Russia’s Primorsky Krai, Japan, and China to New Guinea. Only five species are known to occur outside that area: three in Europe and two in North America. (Dlussky 2009)
Check specimen data from AntWeb
Taylor (1967) - Ponera are small cryptobiotic ants, nesting in rotting logs in forested areas, or under stones in nonforested situations. In the tropical areas specimens are rarely encountered away from rain forest. In temperate areas, however, species may occur in relatively lightly forested areas. This appears to be the case with Ponera japonica, Ponera pennsylvanica and especially with Ponera coarctata. The Australian Ponera leae is essentially limited to rain forest in the northern parts of its range, but further south it may be found in dry, lightly forested areas. Foraging is probably cryptobiotic, though some New Guinea species have been taken straying on the ground surface.
Little information is available concerning feeding. However, most species are probably insectivorous. I have conducted feeding experiments with some of the New Guinea and Samoan species, including Ponera xenagos, Ponera elegantula, Ponera tenuis, Ponera incerta and Ponera woodwardi. These were unsuccessful with the larger species, except elegantula, which accepted moderately large (8-12 mm) campodeid and japygid Diplura. Tenuis and incerta accepted smaller (4-6 mm) campodeids, isotomid and sminthurid Collembola, and small newly hatched spiders (2 mm long). Negative feeding response was obtained with eggs and larvae of various ants, small crushed insects of various orders, and small myriapods. Stray workers were never observed carrying prey, and distinct middens of insect or other remains were not located near nests.
Colonies usually contain about 30 workers. Larvae and pupae are not segregated in most cases, but occasionally aggregations of pupae were observed. These may have included the total brood of the colonies involved. Larvae are attached to the floor or walls of the nest galleries by the glutinous abdominal tubercles described above, and the ants move them high up on the walls or ceilings of artificial nests, if they are flooded. Details of nuptial behavior of pennsylvanica were given by Wheeler (1900), and Haskins & Enzmann (1938). The flights appear to be of a pattern typical for ants, with the alates meeting in the air and mating there or on the ground. Colony foundation is non-claustral and independent in pennsylvanica (Kannowski 1959); judging from my observations this is typical for the genus.
Ponera pennsylvanica (above).
Ponera japonica (above)
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- PONERA [Ponerinae: Ponerini]
- Ponera Latreille, 1804: 179. Type-species: Formica coarctata, by subsequent designation of Westwood, 1840a: 83 (see discussion in Taylor, 1967a: 6).
- Ponera senior synonym of Pseudocryptopone, Selenopone: Wilson, 1957: 356.
- Ponera senior synonym of Pteroponera: Brown, in Bolton, 1994: 164.
- PSEUDOCRYPTOPONE [junior synonym of Ponera]
- Pseudocryptopone Wheeler, W.M. 1933g: 12. Type-species: Cryptopone tenuis, by original designation.
- Pseudocryptopone junior synonym of Ponera: Wilson, 1957: 356.
- PTEROPONERA [junior synonym of Ponera]
- Pteroponera Bernard, 1950a: 3. Type-species: Pteroponera sysphinctoides, by monotypy.
- Pteroponera junior synonym of Ponera: Brown, in Bolton, 1994: 164.
- SELENOPONE [junior synonym of Ponera]
- Selenopone Wheeler, W.M. 1933g: 19. Type-species: Ponera selenophora, by original designation.
- Selenopone junior synonym of Ponera: Wilson, 1957: 356.
The following is from Taylor (1967)
Small to medium size ponerine ants; head width ranging about 0.3-0.85 mm. Head longer than broad, roughly rectangular in frontal view, sometimes prismatic behind. Mandibles triangular, with 3 enlarged apical teeth followed by a series of small to minute, more or less regular denticles; several of these occasionally enlarged. No basal mandibular pit or groove. Palpal formula: Maxillary 2: Labial 2. Clypeus simple, often produced anteriorly, or with a raised tumosity or distinct tooth on the middle of its anterodorsal face. Eyes small, with 1 - 15, usually very indistinct, facets ; situated about 0.75-0.90X the distance from lateral occipital border to midpoint of anterior genal border. Scapes seldom exceeding median occipital border, their apices usually approximately contiguous with it, or failing to reach it by up to twice their maximum thickness. Funiculus incrassate, apical segment subequal in length to the two preceding together; an indistinct to distinct 4- or 5-segmented club often present. Mesosoma elongate, sides more or less parallel, dorsal profile usually flat. Posterolateral edges of propodeum sometimes marginate, forming angles of about 70°-90° when viewed from above. Mesometanotal and lateral mesonotal sutures may be absent. Mesepisternum not divided by a horizontal suture. Middle and posterior tibiae each with a single pectinate apical spur; middle tarsi lacking setose bristles on their outer surfaces. Petiolar node massive; relatively thick in side view, usually tapering only slightly dorsally; seen from above, its anterior face more or less semi-circular, the posterior one transverse, weakly concave to feebly convex. Dorsal and posterior faces of node forming a single arched surface, or with junction between them obtusely marginate. Edge between anterolateral, and posterodorsal faces of node rounded or marginate. Subpetiolar process highly characteristic: usually shallow; with a rounded or bluntly angled anteroventral corner, and a more or less distinctly angular posteroventral one. Latter composed of 2 separate, small to large, right-angled to acute teeth, situated side by side, and sometimes inclined posterolaterally. Anteriorly, subpetiolar process with a more or less distinct circular or oval thin-spot, or fenestra, visible in transmitted light.
General features as shown in figs. 1 -2. Basically similar to worker, with the usual characters of full sexuality-well developed compound eyes, ocelli, complete mesosomal structure, and wings. Identical to conspecific workers in mandibular, palpal, clypeal, and antennal structure. Petiolar node in side view usually thinner; subpetiolar process similar, usually slightly more shallow. Wing venation as in figs. 5-8, 2 closed cubital cells, single closed discoidal and radial cells. Venation usually of “coarctata type" (fig. 5), with 2nd abscissa of the radial sector+median vein (Rs+M.2) arising proximal to anterior base of mediocubital crossvein (m•cu). Two unrelated species, Ponera chapmani and Ponera swezeyi (figs. 6, 8) have Rs+M.2 arising distally to m-cu. Anal lobes absent on hindwing; middle and posterior tarsal spurs as in worker.
(figs. 9-14). All known specimens are winged; ergatoids are apparently not developed. Mandibles vestigial, with a single apical tooth. Maxillary palpi 2-5-segmented, labial palpi 2-segmented. Parapsidal furrows distinct, notauli absent. Wing venation as in conspecific queens, anal lobe absent from hindwing. Cerci present; pygidium with a strong sclerotized terminal spine (fig. 10). Subgenital plate broad, bluntly pointed. Genital capsule as in figs. 13 - 14. Gonoforceps with a peculiar sclerotized posterodorsal process which is usually low, with a thickened marginal ridge; or it may be narrowly digitate and inclined mesally. This structure is apparently unique to Ponera. Tarsal spurs as in queen castes.
Larva: This stage has been described and illustrated in detail for Ponera pennsylvanica by G. C. & J. Wheeler (1952: 631, pl. V, figs 18-21, 28-32). There is apparently nothing unusual in the general body shape or cephalic structure. The body bears about 150 papilliform tubercles, each surmounted by a strong spine. Such structures are present in many larval Ponerini. The exceptional character, apparently allowing generic diagnosis of Ponera larvae, is the presence of 3 or 4 pairs of peculiar mushroom or doorknob shaped glutinous tubercles, on the dorsa of abdominal segments III-V or III-VI. Their number and arrangement is characteristic of Ponera, although similar organs are present in other genera of tribe Ponerini (see discussion below under Hypoponera).
Pupae: Enclosed in cocoons in all known cases except Ponera tenuis, which lacks cocoons in all castes; this exceptional condition is very rare in ponerine ants.
The following references are based on the 2007 CD version of the New General Catalogue.
- Arnold, G. 1915. A monograph of the Formicidae of South Africa. Part I. Ponerinae, Dorylinae. Ann. S. Afr. Mus. 14: 1-159 (page 77, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- 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 382, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- Bolton, B. 1994. Identification guide to the ant genera of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 222 pp. (page 164, Ponera senior synonym of Pteroponera)
- Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 170, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 37, Ponera 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 767, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 88, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini [subtribe Ponerini)
- Emery, C.; Forel, A. 1879. Catalogue des Formicides d'Europe. Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 5: 441-481 (page 455, Ponera in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
- Forel, A. 1899b. Formicidae. [part]. Biol. Cent.-Am. Hym. 3: 1-24 (page 15, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 238, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- Latreille, P. A. 1804. Tableau méthodique des insectes. Pp. 129-200 in: Société de Naturalistes et d'Agriculteurs. Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle. Tome 24. Paris: Déterville, 84 + 85 + 238 + 18 + 34 pp. (page 179, Ponera as genus)
- Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, A. 1835 . Histoire naturelle des insectes. Hyménoptères. Tome I. Paris: Roret, 547 pp. (page 188, Ponera in Ponerites)
- Mayr, G. 1855. Formicina austriaca. Beschreibung der bisher im österreichischen Kaiserstaate aufgefundenen Ameisen, nebst Hinzufügung jener in Deutschland, in der Schweiz und in Italien vorkommenden Arten. Verh. Zool.-Bot. Ver. Wien 5: 273-478 (page 386, Ponera in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
- Mayr, G. 1861. Die europäischen Formiciden. Nach der analytischen Methode bearbeitet. Wien: C. Gerolds Sohn, 80 pp. (page 54, Ponera in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
- Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 713, Ponera 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 13, Ponera in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
- Smith, F. 1857a. Catalogue of the hymenopterous insects collected at Sarawak, Borneo; Mount Ophir, Malacca; and at Singapore, by A. R. Wallace. [part]. J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. Zool. 2: 42-88 (page 65, Ponera in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
- Smith, F. 1858a. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Formicidae. London: British Museum, 216 pp. (page 83, Ponera in Poneridae)
- Smith, F. 1871a. A catalogue of the Aculeate Hymenoptera and Ichneumonidae of India and the Eastern Archipelago. With introductory remarks by A. R. Wallace. [part]. J. Linn. Soc. Lond. Zool. 11: 285-348 (page 320, Ponera in Poneridae)
- Taylor, R. W. 1967a. A monographic revision of the ant genus Ponera Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pac. Insects Monogr. 13: 1-112 (page 1, Revision of genus)
- Westwood, J. O. 1840b. Observations on the genus Typhlopone, with descriptions of several exotic species of ants. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 6: 81-89 (page 83, Type-species: Formica coarctata, by subsequent designation)
- Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 135, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- Wheeler, W. M. 1915i . The ants of the Baltic Amber. Schr. Phys.-Ökon. Ges. Königsb. 55: 1-142 (page 38, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- 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 650, Ponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- Wilson, E. O. 1957b. The tenuis and selenophora groups of the ant genus Ponera (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 116: 355-386 (page 356, Ponera senior synonym of Pseudocryptopone and Selenopone)
- Dlussky, G. M. 2009. The ant subfamilies Ponerinae, Cerapachyinae, and Pseudomyrmecinae (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) in the late Eocene ambers of Europe. Paleontological Journal 43:1043-1086.
- Latreille, P. A. (1804). Nouveau Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle. Paris Vol. 24.
- Taylor, R. W. (1967). A monographic revision of the ant genus Ponera Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pacific Insects Monograph, 13: 1–112.
- Wilson, E. O. (1958). Studies on the ant fauna of Melanesia, III: Rhytidoponera in western Melanesia and the Moluccas; IV: The tribe Ponerini. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 119: 300–371.