Atta cephalotes

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Atta cephalotes
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Atta
Species: A. cephalotes
Binomial name
Atta cephalotes
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Atta cephalotes casent0173617 profile 1.jpg

Atta cephalotes casent0173617 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Subspecies
Synonyms

Wells et al. (2017) - Forms large colonies with millions of workers and nests that can cover more than 100 square meters (Weber 1982, Meyer et al. 2011). In secondary forests and at forest edges, they can reach very high densities and are often the dominant herbivore in the ecosystem (Farji-Brener and Illes 2000). While they are also present in primary forests, their colonies are most common in secondary or disturbed forests (Farji-Brener 2001). The large nests of Atta cephalotes have a strong effect on the leaf-litter arthropod community, adding to spatial heterogeneity within neotropical habitats.

Photo Gallery

  • Atta cephalotes major and minor workers. Photo by Piotr Naskrecki.
  • A busy trail of Atta cephalotes leafcutter ants at La Selva, Costa Rica. Photo by Alex Wild.
  • While large workers of Atta cephalotes carry leaf fragments, smaller workers ride along as guards. La Selva, Costa Rica. Photo by Alex Wild.

Identification

Distribution

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Lesser Antilles, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Suriname (type locality), Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela.


Distribution based on AntMaps

AntMapLegend.png

Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Biology

This ant is one of the most well studied tropical ant species.

Foraging

Bustamante and Amarillo-Suarez (2019) examined how temperature influenced foraging behavior. Nests and nest fragments were brought into the laboratory from field colonies located in forest and pasture sites (Cauca River Valley, Columbia). They found a significant difference in the number foragers at leaves placed in temperature-controlled foraging arenas across a range of temperatures. There were an increasing number of foragers from 15-35C, then a sharp and dramatic drop off at 40 and 45 C. There was no difference in the responses of foragers by habitat, i.e., the pasture and forest colonies.

Reproduction

Dijkstra and Boomsma (2006) investigated the viability of worker produced eggs in Atta cephalotes, Atta sexdens and Atta colombica. Most Atta workers have rudimentary, non-functional ovaries in a queenright colony but a few, typically tending the queen, can produce trophic eggs (Dijkstra et al., 2005). These eggs are feed to the queen. It was not known if any worker eggs can produce males. No Atta cephalotes eggs developed into males. They found Atta workers are not completely infertile, as a few males were found in other species' colonies, but worker fertility is very low. They hypothesize that worker reproduction in orphaned Atta field colonies is almost never successful because the last workers die before their sons can be raised to adulthood, but the importance of worker-laid trophic eggs for queen feeding has precluded the evolutionary loss of worker ovaries.

Interactions with other organisms

Many organisms use chemicals to deter enemies. Some spiders can modify the composition of their silk to deter predators from climbing onto their webs. The Malaysian golden orb-weaver Nephila antipodiana (Walckenaer) produces silk containing an alkaloid (2-pyrrolidinone) that functions as a defense against ant invasion. Ants avoid silk containing this chemical. In the present study, we test the generality of ants' silk avoidance behavior in the field. We introduced three ant species to the orb webs of Nephila clavipes (Linnaeus) in the tropical rainforest of La Selva, Costa Rica. We found that predatory army ants (Eciton burchellii) as well as non-predatory leaf-cutting ants (Atta cephalotes and Acromyrmex volcanus) avoided adult N. clavipes silk, suggesting that an additional species within genus Nephila may possess ant-deterring silk. Our field assay also suggests that silk avoidance behavior is found in multiple ant species.

Fungi

This species is a host for the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilaterialis (a pathogen) in Asia, North and South America (Shrestha et al., 2017).

Genetics

Atta Cephalotes has had their entire genome sequenced.

Palomeque et al. (2015) found class II mariner elements, a form of transposable elements, in the genome of this ant.

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 500,000 (Jaffe & Howse, 1979; Beckers et al., 1989)
  • Foraging behaviour: mass recruiter (Jaffe & Howse, 1979; Beckers et al., 1989)

Castes

Nomenclature

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

  • cephalotes. Formica cephalotes Linnaeus, 1758: 581 (w.) (no state data, “Habitat in America meridionali”).
    • Olivier, 1792: 500 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. 1949: 677 (l.).
    • Combination in Myrmica: Latreille, 1804 179;
    • combination in Oecodoma: Latreille, 1818b: 224; Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, 1835: 176; Smith, F. 1858b: 180;
    • combination in Atta: Fabricius, 1804: 421; Latreille, 1809: 129; Leach, 1815: 147; Roger, 1863b: 35.
    • Status as species: Linnaeus, 1767: 964; De Geer, 1773: 604; Fabricius, 1775: 395; Fabricius, 1782: 493; Retzius, 1783: 76; Fabricius, 1787: 310; Gmelin, 1790: 2802; Christ, 1791: 516; Olivier, 1792: 499; Fabricius, 1793: 362; Latreille, 1802c: 222; Fabricius, 1804: 421; Gravenhorst, 1807: 287; Jurine, 1807: 274 (in text); Latreille, 1809: 129; Leach, 1815: 147; Lamarck, 1817: 97; Latreille, 1818b: 224; Lund, 1831a: 118; Pohl & Kollar, 1832: 14; Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, 1835: 176; Guérin-Méneville, 1844a: 422; Smith, F. 1858b: 180; Roger, 1863b: 35; Mayr, 1863: 437; Mayr, 1865: 81 (redescription); Mayr, 1884: 37; Emery, 1892b: 162; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Emery, 1894k: 57; Forel, 1895b: 138; Forel, 1899c: 32; Forel, 1905b: 157; Wheeler, W.M. 1905b: 130; Wheeler, W.M. 1907a: 274; Forel, 1908b: 40; Forel, 1909a: 249; Forel, 1912e: 179; Emery, 1913b: 259; Mann, 1916: 453; Wheeler, W.M. 1916c: 11; Wheeler, W.M. 1916d: 326; Crawley, 1916b: 372; Forel, 1921b: 134; Mann, 1922: 51; Wheeler, W.M. 1922c: 14; Wheeler, W.M. 1923a: 4; Emery, 1924d: 353; Wheeler, W.M. 1925a: 36; Borgmeier, 1927c: 136; Santschi, 1929f: 92 (in key); Borgmeier, 1934: 108; Menozzi, 1935b: 197; Weber, 1938b: 205; Santschi, 1939f: 166; Borgmeier, 1939: 422 (in list); Weber, 1941b: 127; Gonçalves, 1942: 344; Weber, 1945: 72; Weber, 1946b: 156; Gonçalves, 1947a: 185; Borgmeier, 1950d: 254; Weber, 1958a: 9; Borgmeier, 1959b: 339 (redescription); Kempf, 1961b: 520; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Cherrett & Cherrett, 1989: 52; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012: 257; Bezděčková, et al. 2015: 115; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99 (redescription); Fernández & Serna, 2019: 841.
    • Senior synonym of fervens: Smith, F. 1858b: 180; Mayr, 1863: 437; Roger, 1863b: 35; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Forel, 1899c: 32; Emery, 1924d: 353; Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Senior synonym of grossa: Latreille, 1802c: 224; Fabricius, 1804: 421; Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, 1835: 176; Smith, F. 1858b: 180; Mayr, 1863: 437; Roger, 1863b: 35; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Forel, 1899c: 32; Emery, 1924d: 353; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Senior synonym of integrior: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Senior synonym of isthmicola: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Senior synonym of migratoria: Retzius, 1783: 76; Fabricius, 1793: 362; Fabricius, 1804: 421; Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, 1835: 176; Smith, F. 1858b: 180; Mayr, 1863: 437; Roger, 1863b: 35; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Forel, 1899c: 32; Emery, 1924d: 353; Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Senior synonym of oaxaquensis: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Senior synonym of opaca: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Senior synonym of polita: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Senior synonym of visitatrix: Emery, 1892b: 162; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Forel, 1899c: 32; Emery, 1924d: 353; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 75; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
    • Curent subspecies: nominal plus lutea.
  • fervens. Formica fervens Drury, 1782: 58, pl. 42, fig. 3 (q.) MEXICO (“Mosquito Shore, Bay of Mexico”).
    • [Note: Drury, 1782: 58, does not give the name of the species at the description, but it is entered in his index as, “pl. xlii, fig. 3. Fervens. Class Hym. Genus. Form.”]
    • Combination in Atta: Say, 1836: 290.
    • Status as species: Say, 1836: 290; Roger, 1863b: 35; Mayr, 1865: 81; Forel, 1885a: 362; Mayr, 1886d: 442; Cresson, 1887: 259; Emery, 1895c: 324; Forel, 1899c: 33; Forel, 1901c: 124; Crawley, 1916b: 377; Borgmeier, 1939: 427.
    • [Note: Roger, 1863b: 35, Mayr, 1865: 81, Forel, 1885a: 362; Mayr, 1886d: 442, Cresson, 1887: 259, Dalla Torre, 1893: 152, Emery, 1895c: 329, Forel, 1899c: 33, Forel, 1901c: 124, Forel, 1907e: 2, Crawley, 1916b: 377, and Borgmeier, 1939: 427, all record Atta fervens Say. This is correctly fervens Drury, 1782, sensu Say, 1836.]
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Smith, F. 1858b: 180; Mayr, 1863: 437; Roger, 1863b: 35; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Forel, 1899c: 32; Emery, 1924d: 353; Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 76; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
  • grossa. Formica grossa Fabricius, 1787: 309 (q.) FRENCH GUIANA.
    • Combination in Atta: Roger, 1863b: 35.
    • Status as species: Gmelin, 1790: 2801; Olivier, 1792: 497; Fabricius, 1793: 359.
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Latreille, 1802c: 224; Fabricius, 1804: 421; Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, 1835: 176; Smith, F. 1858b: 180; Mayr, 1863: 437; Roger, 1863b: 35; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Forel, 1899c: 32; Emery, 1924d: 353; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 76; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
  • integrior. Atta cephalotes var. integrior Forel, 1904c: 31 (w.) BRAZIL (Pará).
    • As unavailable (infrasubspecific) name: Emery, 1913b: 259.
    • Subspecies of cephalotes: Emery, 1924d: 353; Borgmeier, 1927c: 136; Santschi, 1929f: 92 (in key); Borgmeier, 1939: 422 (in list); Gonçalves, 1942: 346; Borgmeier, 1950d: 258.
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 76; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
  • isthmicola. Atta cephalotes subsp. isthmicola Weber, 1941b: 127 (w.q.) PANAMA (Barro Colorado I.).
    • Subspecies of cephalotes: Gonçalves, 1942: 345; Borgmeier, 1950d: 243; Weber, 1958a: 9.
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 76; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
  • migratoria. Formica migratoria De Geer, 1773: 604, pl. 31, figs. 11-13 (w.) SURINAME.
    • [Misspelled as migrator by Dalla Torre, 1893: 151, Forel, 1899c: 32.]
    • Combination in Atta: Roger, 1863b: 35.
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Retzius, 1783: 76; Fabricius, 1793: 362; Fabricius, 1804: 421; Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, 1835: 176; Smith, F. 1858b: 180; Mayr, 1863: 437; Roger, 1863b: 35; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Forel, 1899c: 32; Emery, 1924d: 353; Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
  • oaxaquensis. Atta (Atta) cephalotes subsp. oaxaquensis Gonçalves, 1942: 344 (w.) MEXICO (Veracruz, Oaxaca).
    • Subspecies of cephalotes: Borgmeier, 1950d: 243.
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
  • opaca. Atta cephalotes var. opaca Forel, 1904c: 31 (w.) COLOMBIA.
    • As unavailable (infrasubspecific) name: Emery, 1913b: 259.
    • Subspecies of cephalotes: Forel, 1911e: 257; Forel, 1914e: 10; Emery, 1924d: 353; Santschi, 1929f: 92 (in key); Weber, 1938b: 205; Wheeler, W.M. 1938: 252; Borgmeier, 1939: 422 (in list); Gonçalves, 1942: 345; Borgmeier, 1950d: 258; Weber, 1958a: 10.
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
  • polita. Atta cephalotes subsp. polita Emery, 1905c: 54 (w.) BOLIVIA.
    • Subspecies of cephalotes: Forel, 1911e: 257; Forel, 1912e: 179; Emery, 1913b: 259; Emery, 1924d: 353; Gonçalves, 1942: 345; Weber, 1958a: 11.
    • Status as species: Weber, 1938b: 205; Borgmeier, 1939: 423 (in list).
    • Subspecies of vollenweideri: Borgmeier, 1950d: 243.
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Borgmeier, 1959b: 340; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 77; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.
  • visitatrix. Formica visitatrix Christ, 1791: 517 (w.) SURINAME.
    • Junior synonym of cephalotes: Emery, 1892b: 162; Dalla Torre, 1893: 151; Forel, 1899c: 32; Emery, 1924d: 353; Kempf, 1972a: 26; Bolton, 1995b: 77; Fernández, et al. 2015: 99.

Description

References

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

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