Camponotus universitatis

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Camponotus universitatis
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Camponotini
Genus: Camponotus
Species: C. universitatis
Binomial name
Camponotus universitatis
Forel, 1890

Camponotus universitatis casent0910200 p 1 high.jpg

Camponotus universitatis casent0910200 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels

This is a social parasite of Camponotus aethiops and Camponotus pilicornis (Karaman, 2012); thus, its distribution should follow that of its hosts. At present, it is known from scattered localities of southern Europe, especially from Spain, France and Italy. This is the first record from Sardinia (Rigato & Toni, 2011).

At a Glance • Inquiline  




Forel (1890) described C. universitatis worker from France, but its queen and male were first described from the Iberian Peninsula by Tinaut et al. (1992). Host species for C. universitatis are C. aethiops Latreille, 1798 and C. pilicornis Roger, 1859 (Espadaler, 1981; Tinaut et al., 1992). C. universitatis is a rare ant species and has only been recorded in a few studies from Southern Europe: France (Forel, 1890; Espadaler, 1981); Switzerland (Forel, 1904; Kutter, 1936); Italy (Wurmli, 1969); Albania (Andoni, 1977) and Spain (Tinaut et al., 1992). According to Radchenko (2007), C. universitatis is distributed only in Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland but he ignored a record from Albania of Andoni (1977). More recently, Lapeva-Gjonova and Kıran (2012) recorded this species from Southeast Bulgaria in the Strandzha (Istranca) Mountain region. Despite this recent record from Bulgaria and the fact that 35 other parasitic ant species (17 temporary and 18 permanent social parasitic ants) are known from Turkey (Kıran and Aktac¸, 2007), C. universitatis has not yet been recorded from Turkey. (Karaman, 2012.)

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Albania, Bulgaria, France (type locality), Germany, Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


This species is an inquiline in the nests of Camponotus aethiops and Camponotus pilicornis, a permanent parasite without slavery (Tinaut et al., 1992; Guillem et al., 2014). Currently Camponotus universitatis and Camponotus ruseni (Karaman, 2012) are the only known Camponotus social parasites, despite this genus containing approx. 1,500 species.

Guillem et al., 2014 - Camponotus universitatis were collected from the Catalan Pyrenees in June 2011 when four colonies were found with their respective hosts Camponotus aethiops. Parasitized colonies consisted of C. universitatis workers and female alates (young winged queens). All colonies of Camponotus were found in a small (10 m × 10 m) area on a dry slope that was stony and open with a sparse Mediterranean flora.

Guillem et al. (2014) examined cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles between this parasite and its hosts. They found that the parasitic species had CHC profiles that were indistinguishable from that of their hosts, even when the parasite is using more than one host species. The level of chemical mimicry even extended to the more subtle between-colony differences in profiles. In all cases the profiles of un-parasitized colonies were similar to those that were parasitized indicating that it is the parasites that have adjusted their profile to match that of their host and not vice versa. This explains why these social parasites are fully integrated members of each colony and are treated as nest-mates.

It should be noted that in some species, for example Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Winter and Buschinger, 1986), raiding workers are frequently killed or driven off when trying to raid or invade new host colonies, since they are carrying their own host colony odour, which is likely to be different from that of the one they are raiding. This is why parasites continue to use a wide range of other chemical and morphological adaptations associated with their parasitic lifestyle. These include a thickened cuticle and production of appeasement or propaganda compounds (e.g. Allies et al., 1986; Lloyd et al., 1986; Ollett et al., 1987; D'Ettorre et al., 2000). These tactics allow the parasite time to make the necessary adjustments to its profile. Acquiring a host profile may be possible in just a few hours (R. Kather, pers. comm., cited in Guillem et al. (2014)).


This species is a host for the fungus Laboulbenia camponoti (a pathogen) (Espadaler & Santamaria, 2012).



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

  • universitatis. Camponotus universitatis Forel, 1890c: 218 (w.) FRANCE. Tinaut, Espadaler & Jimenez, 1992: 234 (q.m.). Combination in C. (Myrmoturba): Forel, 1914a: 267; in C. (Tanaemyrmex): Emery, 1925b: 98. See also: Baroni Urbani, 1971c: 187; Kutter, 1977c: 206.