Cephalotes lenca

Every Ant Tells a Story - And Scientists Explain Their Stories Here
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Cephalotes lenca
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Cephalotes
Species: C. lenca
Binomial name
Cephalotes lenca
De Andrade, 1999

Cephalotes lenca P casent0619625.jpg

Cephalotes lenca D casent0619625.jpg

Specimen Label

Cephalotes lenca has been collected in dry scrub habitat.


A member of the texanus clade, the apomorphy of which is the thick longitudinal rugosity on the posterior face of the femora, a character uniquely derived for Cephalotes lenca in this clade. Other characters useful to recognise lenca are the thick striae on the ventral part of the head and on the sides of the first gastral sternite and the angulate mid and hind femora. Similar to Cephalotes curvistriatus . The two, however, differ by the mesosomal striation, much thinner in lenca, by the shape of the cephalic hairs, broader in lenca, and by the postpetiolar spines, shorter in lenca. Lenca differs from the similar Cephalotes sobrius mainly by the presence of thick, longitudinal rugosities on the posterior face of the femora. (de Andrade and Baroni Urbani 1999)

Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Honduras (type locality), Nicaragua.

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 New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • lenca. Cephalotes lenca De Andrade, in De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999: 609, fig. 258 (w.) HONDURAS.

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



Head subquadrate. Vertexal angles round, with superficially crenulate borders. Vertexal margin gently concave. Cheeks marginate above and below. Frontal carinae with minute crenulations and upturned over the eyes. Mandibles laterally carinate.

Mesosoma convex in side view. Pronotum in dorsal view with the anterior border convex. Scapular angles absent. Humeral angles with three small pairs of teeth, the anterior pair pointed and directed laterally, the second pair similar in size to the first, and the third pair minute and variably pointed. Sides of mesonotum with a pair of teeth. Promesonotal and propodeal sutures superficially impressed. Propodeum with differentiate basal and declivous faces; basal face not strongly narrowing backwards, with three pairs of teeth, the second pair larger than the others, the third pair thinner, sometimes one additional pair of minute denticles are present between the second and third pairs of teeth; declivous face converging posteriorly.

Petiole anteriorly truncate; its anterior border bearing a pair of small denticles. Petiolar spines slightly shorter than the petiole, thin, pointed backwards and originating from the beginning of the petiolar sides. Postpetiole broader than petiole, with thin, pointed spines arising anterolaterally and gently curved backwards.

Gaster suboval, with an anterolateral crest not surpassmg the first gastral stigma backwards.

Mid and hind femora angulate; mid and hind basitarsi long and without flat and broad base.

Sculpture. Head dorsum superficially and minutely punctate, with anastomosing foveae forming longitudinal, irregular rugosities with their interspaces. Frontal carinae superficially punctate, with sparse, faint foveae and few, thin, longitudinal rugosities. Ventral face of the head and mesosoma superficially punctate and with thick longitudinal striae. Pedicel with the same sculpture as the mesosoma but more irregular.

First gastral tergite superficially and minutely reticulate, with irregular, longitudinal rugosities. First sternite with longitudinal striae on the sides and on the anterior half; its posterior half superficially punctate and shining.

Legs reticulate-punctate, with thick, longitudinal rugosities on the posterior face of the femora.

Pilosity. Body with five types of hairs: (1) appressed and thick originating from each fovea; many more, similar but not originating from foveae, dense on the mesosoma, on the pedicel, on the cheeks, on the mesopleurae, on the middle of the metapleurae, on the distal part of the extensor face of the femora and on the extensor face of tibiae, on the gaster but thinner; (2) slightly clubbed, on the sides of the frontal carinae, of the mesosoma, of the pedicel, on the anterolateral border of the first tergite, and on the legs; (3) truncate and subdecumbent, as long as the clubbed ones, mixed to type (1) hairs, on the pedicel and on the gaster; (4) minute and thin on the first gastral sternite; (5) long and slightly pointed on the posterior border of the gastral sternites.

Colour. Dark brown. Frontal carinae, tibiae, tarsomeres, mesosomal and peduncular spines yellowish-orange; basitarsi darker. First gastral tergite with a pair of yellow, oval spots anterolaterally. Anterolateral crest of the first gastral tergite yellowish-transparent.

Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 3.70-4.16; HL 0.92-1.00; HW 1.04-1.16; EL 0.28-0.33; PW 0.90-1.04; PeW 0.57-0.63; PpW 0.74-0.75; HBaL 0.31-0.36; HBaW 0.08-0.09; CI 113.0-116.0; PI 111.5-115.5; PPeI 157.9-165.1; PPpI 121.6-138.7; HBaI 25.0-25.8.

Type Material

Worker intercepted by U. S. Plant Quarantine Inspectors at Hoboken, N. J., 19.V.1941, on Cattleya sp. from Honduras, n. 41-8337 (National Museum of Natural History). Paratypes: 2 workers, same data as the holotype (USNM).


This species is named after the Lenca, the Indians from Honduras.


  • 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. (page 609, fig. 258 worker described)