Cataglyphis tartessica

AntWiki: The Ants --- Online
Cataglyphis tartessica
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Formicini
Genus: Cataglyphis
Species: C. tartessica
Binomial name
Cataglyphis tartessica
Amor & Ortega, 2014


At a Glance • Brachypterous Queen  • Ergatoid queen  

An endemic species of Spain.


Cataglyphis tartessica is closely related to Cataglyphis floricola and belongs to the Cataglyphis emmae group (Agosti 1990). Apart from their different colouration, the two species are most notably distinguished by differences in the size of their brachypterous queens and males (brachypterous ML: 2.25 ± 0.16, n = 25 vs. 1.97 ± 0.08, n = 16, C. tartessicaC. floricola, respectively; male ML: 2.63 ± 0.17, n = 29 vs. 2.20 ± 0.13, n = 23, C. tartessicaC. floricola, respectively). Both species are ecologically very similar; they exhibit similar nesting and feeding preferences as well as comparable social structures and dispersal modes.


Cataglyphis tartessica is endemic to Spain. It occurs in habitats with sandy soils and has a small range. Its populations are located in southwestern Spain, in an arc of about 200 km around the lower stretch of the Guadalquivir River; its distribution is parapatric to that of Cataglyphis floricola. C. floricola occurs largely on the coast and C. tartessica is found mostly inland.

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 37.72722222° to 36.8125°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Spain (type locality).

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.


The details provided in this biology section were reported by Amor and Ortega (2014):

Cataglyphis tartessica is a monomorphic, medium-sized ant (total body size: 4.51 ± 0.41 mm; n = 35), very similar in size and appearance to other Cataglyphis species of the southern Iberian Peninsula. The species is monodomous and monogynous, with a mean number of workers per nest of 182.8 ± 130.6 (n = 106). Although the species range is rather small, local nest density is high, with about 6 nests per 10 m2 that are in close proximity to each other (0.81 ± 0.35; n = 202).


The diet of C. tartessica mainly consists of arthropods, which is typical of the Cataglyphis genus (Cerda et al. 1989). However, the species, which is mostly a scavenger, also opportunistically harvests other available food resources, a characteristic that is an adaptation to resource poor environments. Thus, depending on location, we observe large differences in diet composition. Some diets contain a large quantity of plant material: in DBR in July, 80% of the diet consisted of Halimium halimifolium petals (Cerda et al. 1992, 1996). Others demonstrate a clear preponderance of arthropod corpses where H. halimifolium is absent: in ALC, also in July, 90% of diet consisted of arthropod corpses (Amor 2011).

In Cataglyphis tartessica, foraging for food items is solitary, with individual ants searching for resources, as in all Cataglyphis species (Wehner et al. 1983). Although it is widely thought that the genus Cataglyphis has lost its ability to recruit as a result of selection imposed by high surface temperatures (Ruano et al. 2000), the foragers of C. tartessica are able to carry out rudimentary but very efficient recruitment, without indicating the food location, when they find a large prey item near their nest. The result is cooperative prey-retrieval for large or heavy items that could not be exploited otherwise (Amore et al. 2010). A similar, short-distance recruitment behaviour, used to exploit rich food patches, has already been observed in Cataglyphis bicolor in Tunisia (Wehner 1987:33).


Colonies of C. tartessica reproduce by fission (see Amor 2011). Around the summer solstice, a third of the workers and cocoons of a reproducing colony are transported, one by one, by a small number of "transporter" ants; the distance from the mother nest to the new nest is 8m on average. The gynes are transported while still in their cocoons, and the queen of the colony remains in the mother nest. The presence in the same population of two queen morphs, brachypterous and ergatoid, that differ in reproductive potential (that of the brachypterous being greater) could be a consequence of a conflict of interest within the colony. So, ergatoids may compete with the brachypterous for the colony leadership and escape policing activity through their morphological similarity to the workers. Supernumerary gynes are reduced by worker aggression (Amor et al. 2011).



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

  • tartessica. Cataglyphis tartessica Amor & Ortega, 2014: 126, figs. 1, 2, 3a-d, 6a (w.q.ergatoid q.m.) SPAIN.
    • Status as species: Borowiec, L. 2014: 61; Lebas, et al. 2016: 168.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.



holotype: HL: 1.17 mm, HW: 1.13 mm, SL: 1.42 mm, ML: 1.90 mm, FL: 1.85 mm, CI: 96.58, SI: 125.66. Bicoloured: shiny black gaster, black eyes and ocelli, rest of body amber. Integument densely microsculptured, matte, except on slightly shiny gaster. Abundant pubescence not obscuring integument texture. Head rectangular; vertex smooth and rounded, with two to three suberect hairs. Compound eyes large and ovoid located in upper half of face sides; ocelli normal. Mandibles triangular and slightly striated. Pilosity particularly present on outer face and on or near margins; long and posteriorly curved or J-shaped hairs in external margin particularly not-able. Masticatory margin armed with 6 teeth; apical tooth largest and most pointed, preapical tooth of intermediate length, and remaining teeth small and irregular. Clypeus with ridge in centre and 7 stout setae along front edge; one pair of setae straddling posterior clypeus ridge. Posterior (basal) area of maxillae with six long and anteriorly curved or J-shaped hairs. Sparse pubescence on genae and ventral cephalic capsule. Pubescence more abundant in occipital area between and behind the eyes.

Mesosoma typical for this genus; propodeum evenly convex, long legs. Propodeal spiracle a long, narrow el-lipse. Metapleural gland just above hind coxa; orifice pro-tected by tuft of guard hairs. Scale-like petiole thick, with rounded apex. Sparse pubescence on mesonotum; abun-dant silver pubescence on pronotum, pleura, propodeum, petiole, and coxae.

Gaster shiny due to a very lightly microsculptured in-tegument and very sparse pubescence. Apex of gaster with circular acidopore (nozzle-shaped) and fringed with setae. Long setae on gastral sternites; only sparse setae present on dorsal side of most apical tergites.

paratypes: Workers from different sampling locations showed morphometric variation. The biggest difference in body size occurred between workers from BRN and AZN populations (ML: 2.13 ± 0.2 vs. 1.77 ± 0.11, n = 35, from nest 5, and n = 30, from nest 6, respectively). Workers also differed, generally, in their number of setae and mandibular teeth (5 - 7).


A notable feature of C. tartessica is the presence of two morphs of queens, brachypterous (short-winged queen) and ergatoid (wingless queen).

brachypterous Same body colouration as worker. but with bigger head, mesosoma, and gaster; head squarer, scape shorter. Compound eyes and ocelli normal. Strong, slightly striated mandibles; api-cal tooth more pointed and developed than in worker, other teeth small and short. Mesosoma (scutum, scutellum, and metanotum) less developed than those seen in species with macropterous queens, but very different from those of er-gatoids and workers (AMOR & al. 2011a). Short wings with weak venation; tegulae (scale-like sclerite covering fore-wing base) and wing stumps present and distinct. Legs shor-ter than those of ergatoids and workers (FL: 1.64, 1.75 and 2.03 respectively). Scale-like petiole large and thick, with rounded apex. Gaster similar but larger than that of wor-ker. Pubescence very sparse.

Variability: Little differences in mesonotum size and de-gree of thoracic development.

ergatoids Looks like a worker; hard to distinguish between the two using the naked eye. Scape length intermediate to those of brachypterous queens and worker. Mesosoma only slightly developed, with very small scutum, scutellum, and metanotum, in profile view appear-ing slightly elevated; scutum-scutellum suture very slight-ly impressed or disappeared. Metanotum plate arcuate and wrinkled. Wing insertion points extremely reduced. Leg length intermediate to those of brachypterous and wor-ker.

Variability: At a glance, some ergatoids without wing insertion points; they can only be distinguished from wor-kers by their physogastric abdomen and behaviour.


External morphology: Head, scape, mesosoma, petiole, and coxae dull black; funiculus, legs, and gaster dull amber. Large, light brown wings with strong venation.

Head ovoid and small. Prominent large ovoid com-pound eyes located in mid to upper half of face sides; prominent large ocelli also present. Cephalic capsule with a slight blister in the occipital margin behind the ocelli. Scoop-shaped mandibles, small, fragile, and without stria-tions, that taper into a small apical tooth. Antennae with 13 segments; the two basalmost funicular segments some-what longer than the others.

Mesosoma massive, with well-developed scutum and scutellum; metanotum small. Pleural sclerites slightly stri-ated next to wing insertions. Petiole scale-like, large, and thick, with bilobed or heart-shaped apex due to a slight, longitudinal constriction. Scutum, scutellum, and meta-notum with very sparse pubescence. Scattered setae on scutum. Abundant pubescence on pronotum, propodeum, pleura, coxae, and petiole.

Gaster cylindrical densely microsculptured and with medium pubescence. Sternites with long and numerous setae, and tergites lacking setae.

Genital morphology: Paramere elongated and oval, with abundant long setae, and externally bearing a small finger-like process at its base next to cuspis. Vol-sella with digitus and cuspis straight and parallel, digitus larger than cuspis. Penisvalva twice as long as wide, with 7 (6 - 9) minute teeth in its internal arcuate margin, and a flat peak in its terminal end. Subgenital plate concave and bilobed posterolaterally, with rounded notch in centre of depression, at posterior margin; numerous setae present on its exterior face.

Variability: The extent of black colouration can vary among males; for example, the scape, which is usually black, can also be amber. The first funicular and gastral segments can be black in some males. The genitalia are very uniform; the number of penisvalva teeth can differ, and the posterior margin of the subgenital plate can be continuous (unbroken in the middle) or sometimes present a slight convexity.

Type Material

Holotype (worker): Spain, Huelva, Doñana Biological Reserve 36° 59' 38.44" N, 6° 26' 47.74" W, 2009-07-03; coll. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales de Madrid (MNCN_Ent75407). Paratypes: 72 queens (25 brachypterous and 47 ergatoids; DBR), 30 males (DBR and ALC), and 181 workers (DBR, AZN, ALC, UTR, BRN) collected between 2008 and 2010.


The name of this species comes from its current geographic distribution in southwestern Andalusia. It is distributed across the area thought to have been occupied by the ancient Tartessian civilisation, which existed three thousand years ago in the southwestern Iberian Peninsula.


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Amor F., and P. Ortega. 2014. Cataglyphis tartessica sp. N., anew species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in south-western Spain. Myrmecological News 19: 125-132.
  • Borowiec L. 2014. Catalogue of ants of Europe, the Mediterranean Basin and adjacent regions (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Genus (Wroclaw) 25(1-2): 1-340.