Cataulacus voeltzkowi

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Cataulacus voeltzkowi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Cataulacus
Species: C. voeltzkowi
Binomial name
Cataulacus voeltzkowi
Forel, 1907

Cataulacus voeltzkowi casent0101242 profile 1.jpg

Cataulacus voeltzkowi casent0101242 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

Found in forested habitats, little is known about the biology of Cataulacus voeltzkowi.


Amongst the species immediately related to Cataulacus intrudens, Cataulacus voeltzkowi is certainly the easiest to recognize. The unique form of the gastral sculpturation is unmistakable (Bolton 1974)

Keys including this Species


Known from Comoros, Madagascar and Mayotte.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Afrotropical Region: Comoros.
Malagasy Region: Madagascar (type locality), Mayotte.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Much of the information concerning the biology of Cataulacus species is anecdotal and fragmentary. Arnold (1917) wrote a succinct general overview of Cataulacus biology that still remains quite informative. Arnold reports "all the species of this genus are tree-ants, usually forming medium sized nests in hollow twigs and stems, or more rarely, under the bark. They are timid and slow-moving insects, often feigning death or dropping rapidly to the ground when disturbed. As Bingham has remarked in connection with this genus (Fauna Brit. India, Formicidae), these ants have the habit of wandering over the trunks of trees and the leaves in what appears to be a very aimless and languid manner. I have occasionally seen them breaking open the earthen tunnels constructed by termites over the trunks of trees and attack the inmates."

Bolton (1974) expands upon this earlier account - "All known Cataulacus species are arboreal or subarboreal nesters and they predominantly forage on the trees and shrubs in which the nests are situated. Very few appear to come down to ground level but in West Africa the small species Cataulacus pygmaeus and Cataulacus brevisetosus may be found foraging in leaf litter or crossing the ground to ascend a tree other than the one in which the nest is situated. The nests themselves are usually constructed in small hollow twigs or stems by the smaller species and in rotten branches or rotted portions of the tree trunk by the larger species. This is rather a generalization as some small species are known which nest in and under rotten bark (e.g. Cataulacus vorticus) and undoubtedly some of the larger forms will eventually be found inhabiting relatively small cavities in plants.

Various species of the genus in Africa are known to inhabit a variety of galls, acacias and bushes as well as large trees. Numerous species have been found nesting in, and have therefore been often collected from, cocoa in Africa. Some of these species are Cataulacus guineensis, Cataulacus pygmaeus, Cataulacus mocquerysi, Cataulacus egenus, Cataulacus vorticus, Cataulacus brevisetosus, Cataulacus kohli and Cataulacus theobromicola. Feeding habits in the genus are mostly unknown but the present author has noted C. guineensis tending aphids and small coccids.

On the plants ants of the genus Cataulacus often occur together with Oecophylla or species of Crematogaster, and appear to be mostly tolerated (at least they are not evicted) by the majority of these forms. Their defence against attackers of these genera lies primarily in their armoured exterior, but their ultimate escape reaction is to curl up and release their grip on the plant, falling to the ground and thus making their escape. The decision to remain immobile and present an armoured surface or to drop from the plant appears to depend upon the size or persistence of the aggressor; larger attackers usually precipitate the latter reaction, but it has also been noted as a result of persistent and unwanted attention by a series of workers of a small Crematogaster species.

The majority of species are forest-dwelling forms, with relatively few adapted to savannah or veldt conditions. Those which do, however, occur in these zones tend to be very successful in their chosen habitat and often possess a wide distribution. A few species are apparently able to exist in any region of Africa providing the basic essentials of nesting-site and food supply are met with, but on the whole the fauna may be divided into forest and non-forest forms."

Some species have nests that can be protected by a single worker's head, as its shape matches the nest entrance and forms an effective plug.

It has more recently been discovered that some species of Cataulacus are efficient gliders (Cataulacus erinaceus, Cataulacus guineensis, Cataulacus mocquerysi and Cataulacus tardus). Workers exhibit directed movement while in freefall that allows them to glide back to regain a hold on the same tree trunk. (Yanoviak et al. 2005, 2007, 2008)






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

  • voeltzkowi. Cataulacus voeltzkowi Forel, 1907g: 84 (w.) MADAGASCAR. See also: Bolton, 1974a: 50.

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



Bolton (1974) - TL 4.5 – 5.2, HL 1.14 – 1.36, HW 1.20 – 1.32, CI 97 - 105, EL 0.42 – 0.50, OI 34 - 38, IOD 0.88 – 1.00, SL 0.56 – 0.66, SI 46 - 50, PW 0.92 – 1.06, AL 1.28 – 1.48, MTL 0.64 – 0.72 (6 measured).

Occipital crest not developed but vertex and occiput separated by an angle. Occipital corners with a small tooth and also with a smaller tooth flanking them upon the occipital margin; the latter usually bears a few very small dentic1es. Sides of head behind eyes denticulate. Pronotum marginate, equipped with a series of small dentic1es, or less commonly the margin with a serrate appearance. Mesonotum and propodeum each with one or two dentic1es laterally, the propodeum armed with a pair of flattened spines. First gastral tergite not marginate laterally.

Dorsal surfaces of head and alitrunk coarsely and closely reticulate-rugose, with a predominantly longitudinal direction upon the head, mesonotum and propodeum. On the pronotum however the reticulum is more complete and is not directional. The relatively small interspaces between the rugae are finely reticulate-punctate. Gastral rugae very regular and evenly spaced. In dorsal view all rugae originate at the base of the first tergite and initially run longitudinally. Those on the disc, however, terminate in the anterior one-third to one-half of the length of the segment. The laterally situated rugae then curve strongly around the apices of the discal rugae and run transversely across the remainder of the disc. The result is that if a median longitudinal strip of the tergite is examined the rugae thereon run longitudinally in the anterior portion and transversely in the posterior portion. Short, erect hairs are present upon all dorsal surfaces of the head and body, which may be inconspicuous upon the pronotum and mesonotum.

Type Specimen Labels

Type Material

Bolton (1974) - Syntype workers, MADAGASCAR: Grand Comoro Is., Moheli (Voeltzkow) (MHN, Geneva; MNHU, Berlin) [examined].


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Bolton B. 1974. A revision of the Palaeotropical arboreal ant genus Cataulacus F. Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History). Entomology 30: 1-105.
  • 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.
  • Forel A. 1907. Ameisen von Madagaskar, den Comoren und Ostafrika. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse. Reise in Ostafrika 2: 75-92.
  • 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