Acromyrmex subterraneus

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Acromyrmex subterraneus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Acromyrmex
Species: A. subterraneus
Binomial name
Acromyrmex subterraneus
(Forel, 1893)

Acromyrmex subterraneus casent0173804 profile 1.jpg

Acromyrmex subterraneus casent0173804 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels




Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 25.68015° to -30.28333333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil (type locality), Paraguay, Peru.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Countries Occupied

Number of countries occupied by this species based on AntWiki Regional Taxon Lists. In general, fewer countries occupied indicates a narrower range, while more countries indicates a more widespread species.

Estimated Abundance

Relative abundance based on number of AntMaps records per species (this species within the purple bar). Fewer records (to the left) indicates a less abundant/encountered species while more records (to the right) indicates more abundant/encountered species.


Explore-icon.png Explore Fungus Growing 
For additional details see Fungus growing ants.

A handful of ant species (approx. 275 out of the known 15,000 species) have developed the ability to cultivate fungus within their nests. In most species the fungus is used as the sole food source for the larvae and is an important resource for the adults as well. Additionally, in a limited number of cases, the fungus is used to construct part of the nest structure but is not as a food source.

These fungus-feeding species are limited to North and South America, extending from the pine barrens of New Jersey, United States, in the north (Trachymyrmex septentrionalis) to the cold deserts in Argentina in the south (several species of Acromyrmex). Species that use fungi in nest construction are known from Europe and Africa (a few species in the genera Crematogaster, Lasius).

The details of fungal cultivation are rich and complex. First, a wide variety of materials are used as substrate for fungus cultivating. The so-called lower genera include species that prefer dead vegetation, seeds, flowers, fruits, insect corpses, and feces, which are collected in the vicinity of their nests. The higher genera include non leaf-cutting species that collect mostly fallen leaflets, fruit, and flowers, as well as the leafcutters that collect fresh leaves from shrubs and trees. Second, while the majority of fungi that are farmed by fungus-feeding ants belong to the family Lepiotaceae, mostly the genera Leucoagaricus and Leucocoprinus, other fungi are also involved. Some species utilise fungi in the family Tricholomataceae while a few others cultivate yeast. The fungi used by the higher genera no longer produce spores. Their fungi produce nutritious and swollen hyphal tips (gongylidia) that grow in bundles called staphylae, to specifically feed the ants. Finally, colony size varies tremendously among these ants. Lower taxa mostly live in inconspicuous nests with 100–1000 individuals and relatively small fungus gardens. Higher taxa, in contrast, live in colonies made of 5–10 million ants that live and work within hundreds of interconnected fungus-bearing chambers in huge subterranean nests. Some colonies are so large, they can be seen from satellite photos, measuring up to 600 m3.

Based on these habits, and taking phylogenetic information into consideration, these ants can be divided into six biologically distinct agricultural systems (with a list of genera involved in each category):

Nest Construction

A limited number of species that use fungi in the construction of their nests.

Lower Agriculture

Practiced by species in the majority of fungus-feeding genera, including those thought to retain more primitive features, which cultivate a wide range of fungal species in the tribe Leucocoprineae.

Coral Fungus Agriculture

Practiced by species in the Apterostigma pilosum species-group, which cultivate fungi within the Pterulaceae.

Yeast Agriculture

Practiced by species within the Cyphomyrmex rimosus species-group, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi derived from the lower attine fungi.

Generalized Higher Agriculture

Practiced by species in several genera of non-leaf-cutting "higher attine" ants, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi separately derived from the lower attine fungi.

Leaf-Cutter Agriculture

A subdivision of higher attine agriculture practiced by species within several ecologically dominant genera, which cultivate a single highly derived species of higher attine fungus.

Note that the farming habits of Mycetagroicus (4 species) are unknown. Also, while species of Pseudoatta (2 species) are closely related to the fungus-feeding genus Acromyrmex, they are social parasites, living in the nests of their hosts and are not actively involved in fungus growing. ‎

Pikart et al. (2015) found in aggression experiments that Acromyrmex subterraneus workers were very aggressive to non-nestmate Acromyrmex subterraneus and workers of Acromyrmex molestans and Acromyrmex niger. Interactions with winged queens of the inquiline Acromyrmex ameliae, for which it is a known host, produced a slightly less aggressive response.


Nickele et al. (2015) studied this species in Paraná, Brazil, both in the field and lab, to elucidate details of their leaf transport. Some of their findings: In Acromyrmex subterraneus cutting and carrying of fragments were clearly separated activities performed by distinct worker groups differing in body size. Cutters were larger than carriers. In addition, the behavior of foragers of differed significantly according to variation in trail distances. On short trails (1 m), cutters frequently transported the fragments directly to the nest, whereas on long trails (more than 10 m), most cutters transferred the fragments to other workers. Transport chains (fragments found on the trail or directly received from nestmates are transported consecutively by different carriers) happened more frequently when workers harvested plants far from the nest. These results demonstrate that Acromyrmex species display both division of labor between cutters and carriers, and task partitioning during leaf transport, with trail lengths showing marked effects on the likelihood of sequential transport. Furthermore, the results of this study provide support for the hypothesis that the behavioral response of transferring fragments in Acromyrmex species would have been selected for because of its positive effect on the information flow between workers.

Fernandes et al. (2018) used A. subterraneus to experimentally examine differences in how myrmecochorous seeds are handled may influence germination.

Association with Other Organisms

Explore-icon.png Explore: Show all Associate data or Search these data. See also a list of all data tables or learn how data is managed.


  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Apocephalus dubitatus (a parasite) ( (attacked).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Apocephalus dubitatus (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Apocephalus rionegrensis (a parasite) ( (attacked).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Myrmosicarius cuspidatus (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Myrmosicarius gracilipes (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Myrmosicarius infestans (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).


  • This species is a host for the diapriid wasp Szelenyiopria talitae (a parasite) in Brazil (Loiacono et al., 2013).

Loiacono et al. (2013) found that Szelenyiopria talitae attacks mature larvae of A. subterraneus. All larvae parasitoidized belong to worker forms of the ants and were easily recognized by the dark coloration through the cuticle where the wasps were developing. Szelenyiopria talitae is predominantly a solitary parasitoid, but can be gregarious with two to 10 wasps per larva. Each larva contains wasps of one sex. The September nest was 100% parasitized (510 ant larvae) but the percentage of parasitoidism of the other nest could not be established. Inside the fungus chamber it was possible to see worker ants taking care of larvae attacked as if they were healthy larvae.


  • This species is a host for the fungus Aspergillus flavus (a pathogen) (Sales & Toledo, 2020).
  • This species is a host for the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae (a pathogen) (Sales & Toledo, 2020).



Images from AntWeb

Acromyrmex subterraneus casent0173805 head 1.jpgAcromyrmex subterraneus casent0173805 profile 1.jpgAcromyrmex subterraneus casent0173805 dorsal 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0173805. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by ALWC, Alex L. Wild Collection.


The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • subterraneus. Atta (Acromyrmex) subterranea Forel, 1893e: 593 (s.q.) BRAZIL (no state data).
    • Type-material: 1(?) syntype worker, 1 (?) syntype queen (numbers not stated).
    • Type-locality: Brazil: (no further data) (A. Moeller?).
    • [Note: Kempf, 1972a: 15, gives the type-locality Brazil: Santa Catarina, Blumenau (probably A. Moeller).]
    • Type-depository: MHNG (perhaps also ZMUC).
    • Forel, 1901d: 301 (m.).
    • Combination in Acromyrmex: Gallardo, 1916d: 329; Emery, 1924d: 350.
    • Subspecies of coronatus: Forel, 1901d: 301; Forel, 1911c: 291; Forel, 1911e: 257; Bruch, 1914: 216; Gallardo, 1916d: 329.
    • Status as species: Emery, 1905c: 48; Emery, 1906c: 165; Forel, 1906d: 248; Forel, 1908c: 351; Forel, 1909a: 257; Forel, 1912e: 181; Luederwaldt, 1918: 39; Santschi, 1919f: 51; Emery, 1924d: 350; Santschi, 1925a: 372; Borgmeier, 1927c: 135; Eidmann, 1936b: 83; Santschi, 1937f: 230 (redescription); Weber, 1938b: 204; Gonçalves, 1961: 163; Kempf, 1972a: 15; Cherrett & Cherrett, 1989: 52; Bolton, 1995b: 57; Wild, 2007b: 30; Bezděčková, et al. 2015: 114; Fernández, et al. 2015: 92 (redescription); Fernández & Serna, 2019: 834; Forti, Andrade, et al. 2022: 8.
    • Senior synonym of mixtus: Gonçalves, 1961: 164; Kempf, 1972a: 15; Bolton, 1995b: 57; Fernández, et al. 2015: 92.
    • Senior synonym of ogloblini: Fernández, et al. 2015: 92.
    • Senior synonym of peruvianus: Fernández, et al. 2015: 92.
    • Senior synonym of purensis: Gonçalves, 1961: 164; Kempf, 1972a: 15; Bolton, 1995b: 57; Fernández, et al. 2015: 92.
    • Distribution: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru.
  • mixtus. Acromyrmex subterraneus var. mixtus Santschi, 1925a: 373 (w.) BRAZIL (Ceará).
    • Type-material: 7 syntype workers.
    • Type-locality: Brazil: Ceará (F. Dias da Rocha).
    • Type-depositories: MHNG, NHMB.
    • Subspecies of subterraneus: Borgmeier, 1927c: 135; Eidmann, 1936b: 87; Santschi, 1937f: 232 (in key).
    • Junior synonym of subterraneus: Gonçalves, 1961: 164; Kempf, 1972a: 15; Bolton, 1995b: 56; Fernández, et al. 2015: 92.
  • ogloblini. Acromyrmex subterraneus var. ogloblini Santschi, 1933e: 121 (w.) ARGENTINA (Misiones).
    • Type-material: 2 syntype workers.
    • Type-locality: Argentina: Loreto, no. 1947 (A.A. Ogloblin).
    • Type-depository: NHMB.
    • Subspecies of subterraneus: Santschi, 1937f: 231 (in key); Kempf, 1972a: 15; Bolton, 1995b: 56.
    • Junior synonym of subterraneus: Fernández, et al. 2015: 92.
  • peruvianus. Acromyrmex (Acromyrmex) subterraneus var. peruvianus Borgmeier, 1940: 606 (w.m.) PERU.
    • Type-material: syntype workers (number not stated, “numerous”), 7 syntype males.
    • Type-locality: Peru: Cartavio, 1939 (W. Weyrauch).
    • Type-depository: MZSP.
    • Subspecies of subterraneus: Kempf, 1972a: 15; Bolton, 1995b: 56; Bezděčková, et al. 2015: 114.
    • Junior synonym of subterraneus: Fernández, et al. 2015: 92.
  • purensis. Atta (Acromyrmex) subterranea var. purensis Forel, 1912e: 181 (w.) BRAZIL (Amazonas).
    • Type-material: syntype workers (number not stated).
    • Type-locality: Brazil: Amazonas, Rio Purus (E.A. Goeldi).
    • Type-depository: MHNG.
    • Combination in Acromyrmex: Emery, 1924d: 350.
    • Subspecies of subterraneus: Emery, 1924d: 350; Santschi, 1925a: 395 (in key); Borgmeier, 1927c: 135; Santschi, 1937f: 231 (in key); Weber, 1938b: 204.
    • Junior synonym of subterraneus: Gonçalves, 1961: 164; Kempf, 1972a: 15; Bolton, 1995b: 56; Fernández, et al. 2015: 92.



  • 2n = 38 (Brazil) (Fadini & Pompolo, 1996).
  • 2n = 38, karyotype = 14M + 18SM + 4ST + 2A (Brazil) (de Castro et al., 2020).


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

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