Aphaenogaster swammerdami

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Aphaenogaster swammerdami
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Stenammini
Genus: Aphaenogaster
Species: A. swammerdami
Binomial name
Aphaenogaster swammerdami
Forel, 1886

Aphaenogaster swammerdami casent0489647 profile 1.jpg

Aphaenogaster swammerdami casent0489647 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


Aphaenogaster swammerdami is a common and abundant species known to have an omnivorous diet consisting of arthropods and seeds (Boehing-Gaese et al., 1996, 1999; Fisher, 2003). Their underground nests can be large and have been found to be shared with the snakes Madagascarophis colubrinus (Schlegel, 1837) and Leioheterodon modestus (Günther, 1863); it is an important secondary seed disperser of Commiphora guillaumini (Burseraceae) (Böhning-Gaese et al. 1999).



Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Malagasy Region: Madagascar (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


The type specimens of Tetramorium tsingy, an ant only known from a few individuals, were collected from a nest of A. swammerdami.

Jono et al. 2019. Figure 1. a. Reaction of A. swammerdami towards M. colubrinus and b. Workers with brood, in reaction to the presence of M. decorsei are standing on the vegetation adjacent to the nest entrance.

Jono et al. (2019) - Colonies of A. swammerdami contain from 100–1500 workers. They inhabit large, underground nests that have a single large entrance hole and a conspicuous mound. This ant occurs sympatrically with the blindsnake Madatyphlops decorsei, and is believed to prey on A. swammerdami brood. An examination of the stomach contents of two museum specimen of M. decorsei were found to exclusively contain Aphaenogaster larvae. Also, blindsnakes generally specialize in feeding on termites and ant brood taken from inside their nests. The lamprophiid snake, Madagascarophis colubrinus, also co-occurs with A. swammerdami and is known to live inside their nests. Local people in Madagascar refer to this snake as ‘Ant’s Mother’ due to its propensity to live in ant nests. M. colubrinus preys on vertebrates and has been observed feeding on a blindsnakee. When experimentally presented at the colony entrance, the snake M. decorsei prompted workers to bite the snake and within a few minutes evacuate the brood from their nest. In 10 of 11 trails the colony recovered normal activity 1 day after the M. decorsei trials. M. colubrinus presented at the nest entrance was unmolested by the ants. It appears A. swammerdami have evolved two defenses against blind snakes. They have developed a mutualism with M. colubrinus that provides protection from brood raiding blindsnakes and they evacuate the brood when M. decorsei poses an imminent threat.


Additional images can be found on the Aphaenogaster swammerdami category page.





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

  • swammerdami. Aphaenogaster (Ischnomyrmex) swammerdami Forel, 1886c: cvi (w.) MADAGASCAR.
    • [Misspelled as schwammerdami by Santschi, 1911e: 123.]
    • Forel, 1891b: 168 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1977a: 584 (l.).
    • Combination in Stenamma (Ischnomyrmex): Forel, 1907e: 14;
    • combination in Aphaenogaster (Deromyrma): Forel, 1913b: 350; Emery, 1921f: 65;
    • combination in Deromyrma: Santschi, 1915c: 250.
    • Status as species: Emery, 1888a: 532 (footnote key); Forel, 1891b: 167 (redescription); Dalla Torre, 1893: 107; Forel, 1907e: 14; Forel, 1907g: 83; Santschi, 1911e: 123; Santschi, 1915c: 250; Emery, 1915d: 71; Emery, 1921f: 65; Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 1017; Bolton, 1995b: 73.
    • Current subspecies: nominal plus clara, curta, spinipes.


Syntype Specimen Labels


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Blaimer B. B., S. G. Brady, T. R. Schultz, and B. L. Fisher. 2015. Fucntional and phylogenetic approaches reveal the evolution of diversity in a hyper diverse biota. Ecography 38: 001-012.
  • Branstetter M. G. 2012. Origin and diversification of the cryptic ant genus Stenamma Westwood (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), inferred from multilocus molecular data, biogeography and natural history. Systematic Entomology 37: 478-496.
  • DeMarco B. B., and A. I. Cognato. 2016. A multiple-gene phylogeny reveals polyphyly among eastern North American Aphaenogaster species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zoologica Scripta DOI: 10.1111/zsc.12168
  • Fisher B. L. 1997. Biogeography and ecology of the ant fauna of Madagascar (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Natural History 31: 269-302.
  • Fisher B. L. 2003. Formicidae, ants. Pp. 811-819 in: Goodman, S. M.; Benstead, J. P. (eds.) 2003. The natural history of Madagascar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, xxi + 1709 pp.
  • Fisher, B.L. and H.G. Robertson. 2002. Comparison and Origin of Forest and Grassland Ant Assemblages in the High Plateau of Madagascar (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Biotropica 34(1):155-167.
  • Forel A. 1886. Diagnoses provisoires de quelques espèces nouvelles de fourmis de Madagascar, récoltées par M. Grandidier. Annales de la Société Entomologique de Belgique. 30: ci-cvii.
  • Forel A. 1887. Fourmis récoltées à Madagascar par le Dr. Conrad Keller. Mitteilungen der Schweizerischen Entomologischen Gesellschaft 7: 381-389.
  • Forel A. 1897. Ameisen aus Nossi-Bé, Majunga, Juan de Nova (Madagaskar), den Aldabra-Inseln und Sansibar, gesammelt von Herrn Dr. A. Voeltzkow aus Berlin. Mit einem Anhang über die von Herrn Privatdocenten Dr. A. Brauer in Marburg auf den Seychellen und von Herrn Perrot auf Ste. Marie (Madagaskar) gesammelten Ameisen. Abhandlungen der Senckenbergischen Naturforschenden Gesellschaft 21: 185-208.
  • Forel A. 1907. Ameisen von Madagaskar, den Comoren und Ostafrika. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse. Reise in Ostafrika 2: 75-92.
  • Forel A. 1907. Formiciden aus dem Naturhistorischen Museum in Hamburg. II. Teil. Neueingänge seit 1900. Mitt. Naturhist. Mus. Hambg. 24: 1-20.
  • Ravelomanana A., and B. L. Fisher. 2013. Diversity of ants in burned and unburned grassland , and dry deciduous forest in the Beanka Reserve, Melaky Region, western Madagascar. Malagasy Nature 7: 171-183.
  • Wheeler W. M. 1922. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. IX. A synonymic list of the ants of the Malagasy region. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 45: 1005-1055