Cephalotes coffeae

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Cephalotes coffeae
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Cephalotes
Species group: coffeae
Species: C. coffeae
Binomial name
Cephalotes coffeae
(Kempf, 1953)

Nothing is known about the biology of Cephalotes coffeae.


A member of the coffeae clade differing from its sister species, Cephalotes trichophorus, by the larger propodeal teeth with a short space between the second and third pair, and by the CI ≥ 112. The soldiers of coffeae have the head partially covered by a thin layer of camouflage material. (de Andrade and Baroni Urbani 1999)

Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -3.353° to -3.353°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Colombia (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


The biology of many Cephalotes species is not known. Ants in this genus are common in the New World tropics and subtropics and are especially abundant and diverse in the canopies of Neotropical forests. The majority of species are arboreal. Species that live in other strata inhabit smaller trees, bushes or grass stems. These noon-arboreal species, due to their accessibility, are among the better studied members of the genus. There are also species that can be found in downed wood but it is likely the wood housed the colony before it fell to the ground. Soil nests are not known for any species nor do most species appear to extensively excavate plant tissue. They nest instead in preformed cavities. Overall, ants in the genus utilize a wide range of plants. Some species are predictable in their plant use but none appear to have evolved specialized mutualisms with particular plant species.

Worker castes typically include two forms, a worker and soldier, but there are a few species that are monomorphic. The larger soldier caste typically has an enlarged head disk. In some species the head of the soldier is very different from the worker while in others these differences are less pronounced. Queens and soldiers tend to share similar head morphology. Soldiers use their heads to plug the nest entrance. This can be very effective in excluding potential intruders. Other morphological differences between the worker castes are present but these differences have not been studied as well as head moprhology.

The behavioral repertoire of Cephalotes varians has been examined in great detail (ethograms from Wilson 1976, Cole 1980 and Cole 1983). Soldiers do little else besides defend the nest. This specialized soldier behavior is presumed to be the norm for most species. An especially interesting behavior occurs when workers are dislodged from trees: they "fly" towards the tree, often grabbing the trunk well above the ground (video).

Mature nest size varies, by species, from less than a hundred to many thousands of workers. Available evidence suggests most species are monogynous. Queens may mate with multiple males.

The proventriculus of the Cephalotes is peculiar relative to other ants. The morphology of the structure suggests it serves as a powerful pump and filter. This does not appear to lead these ants to have a highly specialized diet as most species appear to be general scavengers. Foragers have been observed feeding on carrion, bird feces, extrafloral nectaries and even tending membracids. Pollen feeding has been observed in some species, and this is somewhat specialized for ants, but it is not evident that any species restricts its diet to this resource in any significant way. Evidence for pollen feeding in Cephalotes has accumulated, in part, via finding digested pollen grains seen in infrabucal pellets. It has been suggested that the morphology of the proventriculus is a specialization for processing pollen.

More research examining all aspects of the biology of Cephalotes is needed. Our present understanding of these ants is largely based on species that live in locations other than the forest canopy, which is where Cephalotes are most common and diverse.



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

  • coffeae. Paracryptocerus (Harnedia) coffeae Kempf, 1953: 81, figs. 1-13 (s.w.q.m.) COLOMBIA. Combination in Zacryptocerus: Brandão, 1991: 385. See also: Kempf, 1958a: 104; in Cephalotes: De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999: 560.

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



Kempf (1958) - Total length 3.9-4.7 mm; maximum length of head 1.09-1.24 mm; interocular width 1.09-1.24 mm, maximum length of thorax 1.12-1.28 mm. Black; the following ferruginous: tip of mandibles, scapes, thoracic and peduncular teeth, the tibiae and tarsites; frontal carinae testaceous with their edge light ferruginous; funicular segments fuscous-brown, becoming darker toward apex of funiculus; anterolateral gastral lobes with a light spot, light brown or ferruginous.

Head subopaque; quadrate, the interocular width always equal to the maximum length of head. Clypeal sutures vestigial. Lateral borders of head diverging very little caudad, straight, not emarginate in front of, nor noticeably upturned above, eyes. Occipital corners obliquely truncate with slightly crenulate border. Occipital border gently emarginate between the lobes. Upper face of head scarcely, but evenly convex, finely reticulate punctate, more coarsely reticulate-rugose and foveolate. Lower face of head identically, but much more superficially sculptured, rather shiny.

Thorax subopaque. Anterior border gently arcuate. Shoulders rectangular. Lateral borders of pronotum with two triangular teeth in front, followed by a more or less crenate border, the posterior corner rectangular. Promesonotal suture obsolete. Mesonotum, on each side, with a pointed, projecting tooth. Mesoepinotal suture mostly vestigial, usually fading out in the middle. Lateral border of basal face of epinotum with a subrectangular tooth on the anterior corner, followed behind by a large, triangular and somewhat foliaceous tooth, which again is followed by another similar, yet smaller tooth. Declivous face somewhat differentiated from basal face, its borders marginate but unarmed. Sculpture of dorsum of thorax as on head, the declivous face finely reticulate-punctate and opaque. Sides of thorax horizontally striatorugose. Fore coxae with rugosities on the outer face. Hind femora, as seen in profile, not fusiform, but the extensor face forms a distinct angle, the vertex of which is bluntly rounded.

Peduncular segments subopaque, their dorsal face sculptured as dorsum of head and thorax. Petiole not quite as broad as postpetiole, its anterior face truncate, forming dorsolaterally on each side a small tubercle at its junction with the dorsal face. Lateral processes spinelike, gently curved and pointed at apex. Dorsum of postpetiole flat, its lateral processes long with strongly recurved tip.

Gaster subopaque, oval, rather strongly emarginate anteromesially, its anterolateral lobes rather broad, bearing anteriorly a vestigial, very narrow, foliaceous crest, which does not reach caudad to the level of the stigma of the first tergite. The latter finely reticulate-punctate, reticulate-rugose, forming elongated meshes. First sternite with fine longitudinal rugosities on the sides.

Standing hair on mandibles, funicular segments and apex of gaster. A row of short, thick setae projects from the lateral edge of the frontal carinae, which reaches back to the occipital corner. Scalelike hair very distinctive, long, canaliculate, golden, appressed, on dorsum of head, thorax, peduncle, gaster and extensor face of femora and tibiae. Finer, simple or canaliculate on lower face of head, gastral sternites and sides of the leg segments.

de Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) - Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 4.2-4.48; HL 0.96-1.00; HW 1.08-1.12; EL 0.26; PW 1.00-1.04; PeW 0.52-0.56; PpW 0.56-0.60; HBaL 0.31; HBaW 0.09; CI 112.0-112.5; PI 107.7-108.0; PPeI 185.7-192.3; PPpI 173.3-178.6; HBaI 29.0.


Kempf (1958) - Total length 5.3-5.4 mm; maximum length of head 1.57-1.62 mm; maximum width of head disc 1.48-1.52 mm; maximum length of thorax 1.48-1.50 mm. Black; the following fuscous-ferruginous: Mandibles, anterolateral portion of head disc; ferruginous: legs, first gastral tergite with four yellowish-brown spots, the posterior pair very small.

Head rather shiny, surmounted by an oval, deeply excavate, completely marginate disc, with its somewhat crenulate borders strongly raised, concealing the floor of the disc, when head is seen in profile. Lateral borders of cephalic disc convex, converging caudad, forming with the straight to slightly concave occipital border an obtuse angle. Clypeal sutures vestigial. Anterolateral portions of disc, above the antennal scrobes, slightly transparent, having in the middle, just in front of the center, a gently bulging convexity. Occipital lobes obliquely truncate at apex, the truncated border sharply marginate, continuing cephalad as a vestigial carina, toward the superior border of the eye, but fading out halfway before reaching it. Inferior border of cheeks not distinctly marginate. Floor of cephalic disc finely yet superficially or even only vestigially reticulate-punctate, either only coarsely foveolate, or reticulate-rugose and foveolate. Sides of head, occiput and lower face reticulate-rugose and foveolate.

Thorax somewhat shining on mesonotum, subopaque on pronotum and epinotum, opaque on sides. Pronotum much broader than mesonotum, its anterior border arcuate and convex in the middle, very slightly concave at the sides, its anterolateral corner dentate, its sides subparallel or slightly converging caudad in front of the transverse carina, strongly converging and slightly sinuate behind the carina, the latter very prominent, sharply edged and strongly raised, shallowly excised in the middle, when seen from the front. Promesonotal suture obsolete except on the sides. In profile the pronotum and mesonotum are at right angle, the vertex of which is formed by the transverse carina. Mesonotum flat, with a blunt, or obliquely truncated, projecting lobe on each side. Mesoepinotal groove deeply impressed. Basal face of epinotum gently transversely convex, its anterior corner bluntly rounded, its sides with a strong triangular, pointed tooth, followed at the posterior corner by a similar, somewhat smaller tooth, which is slightly raised, pointing laterad. Declivous face shallowly excavated, its sides marginate. Pronotum, in front of the carina, finely reticulate-punctate, coarsely and rather densely foveolate. Remaining portion of dorsum of thorax coarsely reticulate-rugose and foveolate, the rugosities highly shining. Sides of thorax and declivous face finely but sharply reticulate-punctate, with a few rugosities on the former. Coxae and femora as in worker.

Peduncolar segments and gaster as in worker, except for the posterior p air of light spots on the first gastral tergite. Anterolateral lobes of gaster sharply marginate, not crested. Pilosity as in worker, except for the following: Scalelike hair arising from the pits on cephalic disc shorter, and around the rim of the disc a row of thick, short, projecting setae, extending backward to the level of the eyes, where they continue on the sides until the occipital corner.

de Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) - Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 5.34-5.52; HL 1.38-1.40; HW 1.42-1.44; EL 0.30-0.32; PW 1.44; PeW 0.60-0.64; PpW 0.68; HBaL 0 .34-0.36; HBaW 0.10-0.11; CI 102.8-102.9; PI 98.6-100.0; PPeI 225.0-240.0; PPpI 211.8; HBaI 27.8-32.3.


Kempf (1958) - Total length 6.9-7.2 mm; maximum length of head 1.64-1.71 mm; maximum length of thorax 1.90-1.95 mm. Color as in soldier. The four spots on first gastral tergite are lighter and much more extensive. No light spot on shoulders. In general as in soldier, with the differences peculiar to the caste.

Cephalic disc slightly more elongate, less excavate, the lateral upturned borders not concealing in profile completely the anteromedian convexity of the floor of the disc. Posterior third of disc nearly flat, the borders scarcely raised, the posterior border not distinctly truncated but rather rounded. Ocelli very small, lying in pits which do not differ in size from the squamiferous foveolae. Posterior pair of ocelli very close to the occipital border. Transverse pronotal carina less prominent, interrupted mesially, fading out laterally before reaching the sides of the thorax. Scutum coarsely foveolate. Scutellum reticulate-rugose and foveolate. Basal face of epinotum extremely short, with an obtuse tooth on each side, and another smaller tooth on the posterior corner. Declivous face somewhat excavate, very finely reticulate-punctate, almost smooth. Laterotergites of pronotum and mesopleura foveolate. Hind femora fusiform, not angulate above. Petiole with a short tooth on each side, the postpetiole with lateral processes, which are obliquely truncate. First gastral tergite much longer than thorax, nearly twice as long as broad. Only the first fourth of the first tergite bears fine rugulosities. Scalelike hair as in worker but finer and smaller. Standing hair also occurs all over the first gastral tergite, and sparsely, not regularly distributed, on peduncular segments, legs, and thorax. Wings infumated, with dark-brown veins, the pterostigma black. Veins in the apical field almost well developed, not quite vestigial. Fore wing, when folded over the back extending beyond the apex of the normally contracted gaster.

de Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) - Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 7.48-7.80; HL 1.46-1.48; HW 1.44; EL 0.32; PW 1.36-1.40; PeW 0.56-0.64; PpW 0.72; HBaL 0.40-0.44; HBaW 0.13; CI 97.3-98.6; PI 102.8-105.9; PPeI 212.5-250.0; PPpI 188.8-194.4; HBaI 29.5-32.5.


translation of Kempf (1953) in de Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) - Total length 5.7 mm; median head length 5.7 mm; length of the thorax 1.61 mm. Colour generally black; masticatory border of the mandibles, funiculi, tibiae and tarsi, apical borders of gastral sclerites, brown; genital parameres testaceous.

Head subopaque; larger than long, the distance between the eyes greater than the median length (34:32). Mandibles thin and densely punctated. Masticatory border with apical, subapical and two smaller median teeth. Clypeus convex, its anterior face raised perpendicularly behind the mandibles, its posterior face making a right angle and transversely convex. Frons with a light median impression in front of the anteromedian ocellus. Frontal carinae strongly diverging caudad, not reaching the posterior border of the eyes. Eyes large and convex, their maximum diameter slightly shorter than half of the median length of the head (14:32). Ocelli conspicuous, projecting over the vertex. Occipital angles obtuse, nearly round, superficially marked by a horizontal carina. Occipital border nearly straight. Integument finely and densely punctated and reticulated, with rare longitudinal rugae on the frons, transverse between the frons and the base of the eyes, with some of the rugae prolonging the frontal carinae. Inferior face with rugae more irregular and anastomosing. Antennae filiform, the scape twice as long as the first funicular joint (6:13). Joints 2-11 subequal in length, increasing in width towards the apex. Apical joint one and a half longer than the preceding joint. The space ( ?=scape) and the first article without hairs.

Thorax subopaque. Pronotum with transversal carina weak but distinct, at the level of which the sides possess an adjecting denticle. Lateral borders of the pronotum diverging caudad. Scutellum convex, with deeply impressed Mayrian furrows and faint parapsidal sutures. Epinotum unarmed with the posterior angles of the basal face rounded and carinate. Integument finely and densely punctate-reticulate, bearing on the pronotum and on the scutellum meshes formed by anastomosing rugae. Scutum with spaced rugae, more or less longitudinal in the middle. The sulci between the sclerites of the scutum and between the scutum and the scutellum crossed by minute carinae more pointed and spaced. Sides of the thorax and basal face of the epinotum with big rugae carenate and irregular. Declivous face finely punctate, with some spaced vertical carinae in the superior part.

Petiole subcylindrical, nearly as long as broad, finely punctate, the superior face and the sides with fine longitudinal rugae, and, between them, other transversal rugae forming elongate meshes. Sides with swelling little projecting and obtuse, in its anterior half. Postpetiole slightly shorter than broad with on each side, near the anterior border, a pointed and curved tooth. Sculpture of the superior face as in the petiole, but only with longitudinal rugae. Ventral face with longitudinal striae more pronounced.

Gaster fusiform, finely reticulate and relatively shining.

Head and thorax with abundant long bristles, sinuous and erect, brown-reddish in colour. Shorter hairs sparse and semidecumbent on the gaster; short and decumbent hairs on the legs. Short and fine pubescence on the articles 2-12 of the funiculus.

Wings infuscate, similar to those of the female, yet short, not reaching the tip of the gaster at rest.

de Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) - Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 5.68; HL 0.72; HW 0.92; EL 0.34; PW 0.88; PeW 0.40; PpW 0.44; HBaL 0.56; HBaW 0.08; CI 127.8; PI 104.5; PPeI 220.0; PPpI 209.1; HBaI 14.3.

Type Material

Worker, soldier, gyne and male. Type locality: Tibacy (Cundinamarca, Colombia). Type material: holotype worker (Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de Sao Paulo), 11 paratype workers (MZSP), 2 paratype workers (Museum of Comparative Zoology), 2 paratype soldiers (MZSP), 2 paratype gynes (MZSP), 1 paratype gyne (MCZC), 1 paratype male (MZSP), examined.


  • Brandão, C. R. F. 1991. Adendos ao catálogo abreviado das formigas da região Neotropical (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Rev. Bras. Entomol. 35: 319-412 (page 385, Combination in Zacryptocerus)
  • de Andrade, M. L.; Baroni Urbani, C. 1999. Diversity and adaptation in the ant genus Cephalotes, past and present. Stuttgarter Beitrage zur Naturkunde Series B (Geolgie and Palaontologie). 271:1-889. (Geol. Paläonto (page 560, Combination in Cephalotes)
  • Kempf, W. W. 1953. Uma nova espécie de Paracryptocerus da Colômbia, praga do cafeeiro (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Pap. Avulsos Zool. (Sa~o Paulo) 11: 79-88 (page 81, figs. 1-13 soldier, worker, queen, male described)
  • Kempf, W. W. 1958a. New studies of the ant tribe Cephalotini (Hym. Formicidae). Stud. Entomol. (n.s.) 1: 1-168 (page 104, see also)

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Kempf, W.W. 1972. Catalago abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical (Hym. Formicidae) Studia Entomologica 15(1-4).