Cyphomyrmex costatus

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Cyphomyrmex costatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Cyphomyrmex
Species: C. costatus
Binomial name
Cyphomyrmex costatus
Mann, 1922

Cyphomyrmex costatus casent0281765 p 1 high.jpg

Cyphomyrmex costatus casent0281765 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels


This species is one of the most well studied of the genus.

Photo Gallery

  • Cyphomyrmex costatus, a small fungus-farming ant, has typical fungal mycelia within its nests. Photo by Phil Hoenle.


Mera-Rodriguez, et al. (2020) - Disc of first gastral tergum with strong longitudinal ridges on each side of midline; mid-pronotal tubercles absent; and posterodorsal margin of petiole neither drawn out nor bidentate (Kempf 1965).


Mera-Rodriguez, et al. (2020) - Cyphomyrmex costatus is continuously distributed throughout Central and northern South America, from the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz in Mexico, to the states of Amazonas and Pará in Brazil (Harada and Ketelhut 2009; Bezděčková et al. 2015).

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 19.598888° to -4.0912°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras (type locality), Mexico, Panama.

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.


Explore-icon.png Explore Fungus Growing 
For additional details see Fungus growing ants.

A handful of ant species (approx. 275 out of the known 15,000 species) have developed the ability to cultivate fungus within their nests. In most species the fungus is used as the sole food source for the larvae and is an important resource for the adults as well. Additionally, in a limited number of cases, the fungus is used to construct part of the nest structure but is not as a food source.

These fungus-feeding species are limited to North and South America, extending from the pine barrens of New Jersey, United States, in the north (Trachymyrmex septentrionalis) to the cold deserts in Argentina in the south (several species of Acromyrmex). Species that use fungi in nest construction are known from Europe and Africa (a few species in the genera Crematogaster, Lasius).

The details of fungal cultivation are rich and complex. First, a wide variety of materials are used as substrate for fungus cultivating. The so-called lower genera include species that prefer dead vegetation, seeds, flowers, fruits, insect corpses, and feces, which are collected in the vicinity of their nests. The higher genera include non leaf-cutting species that collect mostly fallen leaflets, fruit, and flowers, as well as the leafcutters that collect fresh leaves from shrubs and trees. Second, while the majority of fungi that are farmed by fungus-feeding ants belong to the family Lepiotaceae, mostly the genera Leucoagaricus and Leucocoprinus, other fungi are also involved. Some species utilise fungi in the family Tricholomataceae while a few others cultivate yeast. The fungi used by the higher genera no longer produce spores. Their fungi produce nutritious and swollen hyphal tips (gongylidia) that grow in bundles called staphylae, to specifically feed the ants. Finally, colony size varies tremendously among these ants. Lower taxa mostly live in inconspicuous nests with 100–1000 individuals and relatively small fungus gardens. Higher taxa, in contrast, live in colonies made of 5–10 million ants that live and work within hundreds of interconnected fungus-bearing chambers in huge subterranean nests. Some colonies are so large, they can be seen from satellite photos, measuring up to 600 m3.

Based on these habits, and taking phylogenetic information into consideration, these ants can be divided into six biologically distinct agricultural systems (with a list of genera involved in each category):

Nest Construction

A limited number of species that use fungi in the construction of their nests.

Lower Agriculture

Practiced by species in the majority of fungus-feeding genera, including those thought to retain more primitive features, which cultivate a wide range of fungal species in the tribe Leucocoprineae.

Coral Fungus Agriculture

Practiced by species in the Apterostigma pilosum species-group, which cultivate fungi within the Pterulaceae.

Yeast Agriculture

Practiced by species within the Cyphomyrmex rimosus species-group, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi derived from the lower attine fungi.

Generalized Higher Agriculture

Practiced by species in several genera of non-leaf-cutting "higher attine" ants, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi separately derived from the lower attine fungi.

Leaf-Cutter Agriculture

A subdivision of higher attine agriculture practiced by species within several ecologically dominant genera, which cultivate a single highly derived species of higher attine fungus.

Note that the farming habits of Mycetagroicus (4 species) are unknown. Also, while species of Pseudoatta (2 species) are closely related to the fungus-feeding genus Acromyrmex, they are social parasites, living in the nests of their hosts and are not actively involved in fungus growing. ‎

From Kempf (1966):

The types of the species were found by Mann in rotten wood. No further detail is given.

The bulk of our information has been gathered by Weber, who, in successive studies (1941-57), was able to elucidate many aspects of its biology, so that in this regard Cyphomyrmex costatus is one of the best known species of the genus.

Weber's observations were made in Panama, principally on Barro Colorado Island. There, the ants are not uncommon, although seasonal scarcity, due to dry seasons and different stages of the wet season, has been observed. The nests are found in the soil, under stones or rotten wood. The cells, elliptical in shape, are of variable size, according to colony development. 8 x 5, 15 x 10, 32 x 13 and 30 x 20 mm with a maximum height of 10 mm are the dimensions obtained by actual measurements in the field.

The fungus garden is bluish gray in color, friable, and crumbles easily. In nature, the garden, though sessile, is in part supported by rootlets. The substrate, consisting of vegetable debris, is strengthened by quartz sand grains, parts of insect skeletons, notably of ants (Weber gives a list of parts from a variety of species), forming the frame work of the fungus-garden.

In artificial cultures, the ants accepted as substrate dried fecal pellets of caterpillars, rose stamens, and cassava granules dusted with yeast extract. The material collected in Panama, in June 1955, was taken to the U. S. by Prof. Weber, who studied the factors responsible for the production and maintenance of thriving cultures of fungi in ant gardens, despite continual possibilities for contamination. The most striking result of this important research consisted in the development, from artificial cultures, of the sporophore or fruiting stage of the fungus cultivated by costatus. This was identified by two specialists as a new species belonging to the agaric genus Lepiota.

Individual colonies, always monogynous, may contain from 20 up to nearly 100 workers. Individual behavior, like "jigging" and grooming was likewise observed (cf. Weber, 1957: 484).

Finally, the ant Megalomyrmex wheeleri was found living in symbiotic relationship with Cyphomyrmex costatus. The former, apparently feeding on the fungus, occurred in 4 nests of the latter. In two nests, there was only a queen of Megalomyrmex. in the remaining nests a queen with numerous workers of her own species. In all cases, the guests lived in a separate cell which, however, communicated with the cell containing the fungus garden, The host species did not disturb the guest. Due to adverse conditions, the study of this relationship could not be carried to completion.

Adams et al. (2015) found that workers of Cyphomyrmex costatus, the host of Megalomyrmex mondaboroides and Megalomyrmex silvestrii, react to a sting by Megalomyrmex parasites mainly with submissive behavior, playing dead or retreating. Host submission also followed brief antennal contact. The observed behavior of Cyphomyrmex costatus was similar to that of Cyphomyrmex cornutus, host of Megalomyrmex mondabora, suggesting that the alkaloidal venoms with pyrrolidines from M. mondabora, piperidines from M. mondaboroides, and pyrolizidines from M. silvestrii may function similarly as appeasement and repellent allomones against host ants, despite their different chemical structure. With the use of these chemical weapons, Megalomyrmex thief ants are met with little host resistance and easily exploit host colony resources.


"Jigging", a conspicuous, rhythmic rocking behavior, has been observed in this species. This behavior occurs in nests but the cause and function remains unclear. Kweskin (2004) found jigging increased in the presence of Collembola, suggesting the behaviour may be in response to invaders of the ants' fungus gardens.

Additional videos.

Association with Other Organisms

Explore-icon.png Explore: Show all Associate data or Search these data. See also a list of all data tables or learn how data is managed.

Flight Period

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Source: Kaspari et al., 2001.



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

  • costatus. Cyphomyrmex costatus Mann, 1922: 44 (w.) HONDURAS.
    • Type-material: 3 syntype workers.
    • Type-locality: Honduras: Lombardia, ii.-iii.1920 (W.M. Mann).
    • Type-depository: USNM.
    • Kempf, 1966: 175 (q.).
    • Status as species: Weber, 1940a: 408 (in key); Weber, 1941b: 104; Kempf, 1966: 172 (redescription); Kempf, 1972a: 92; Snelling, R.R. & Longino, 1992: 480 (in key); Bolton, 1995b: 167; Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012: 258; Bezděčková, et al. 2015: 117; Fernández & Serna, 2019: 850.
    • Senior synonym of colombianus: Kempf, 1966: 172; Kempf, 1972a: 92; Bolton, 1995b: 167.
    • Distribution: Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru.
  • colombianus. Cyphomyrmex colombianus Weber, 1940a: 408 (diagnosis in key), 413 (w.q.) COLOMBIA.
    • Type-material: 1 syntype worker, 3 syntype queens.
    • Type-locality: Colombia: Cordillera Central, Rio Porce, El Homiguero Mine, 3000-3200 ft, 17.vii.1938, 18.vii.1938, and 1.viii.1938 (N.A. Weber).
    • Type-depository: MCZC.
    • Status as species: Weber, 1966: 167.
    • Junior synonym of costatus: Kempf, 1966: 172; Kempf, 1972a: 92; Bolton, 1995b: 167.

Type Material

Kempf (1966) - 3 workers collected by W. M. Mann in rotten wood, presumably deposited in the U. S. National Museum; not seen. Holotype worker (unique) of Cyphomyrmex colombianus in the N. A. Weber collection; not seen. One of the three isolated females of colombianus, not described but mentioned by Weber (1940: 414), taken at the same locality as holotype, was examined (NAW).


Kempf (1966) - This is the smallest species of the genus, easily recognized, being the only form in the rimosus-group having four longitudinal carinae on tergum I of gaster. The closest relative is Cyphomyrmex wheeleri.


Kempf 1966 Cyphomyrmex 1-13.jpg

Kempf (1966) - Total length 2.1-2.4 mm; head length 0.56-0.61 mm; head width 0.51-0.56 mm; thorax length 0.67-0.75 mm; hind femur length 0.48-0.56 mm. Light brown; dorsum of head and gaster fuscous reddish brown. Integument densely granulose, opaque, with larger, shallow, scattered pits, visible on head and gaster. Antennal scrobe superficially reticulate-punctate and somewhat shining.

Head (fig 10, 19). Anterior apron of clypeus flattened, gently convex, mesially notched, laterally acutely dentate. Frontal lobes semicircular, greatly expanded, covering cheeks in full-face view. Frontal carinae moderately diverging caudad. Occipital corners lobate, not foliaceous, somewhat projecting. Vertex with a pair of carinae that diverge cephalad. Preocular carina fading out above eyes. Postero-inferior border of antennal scrobe bluntly marginate between upper orbit of eye and occipital lobe. Lower border of cheeks bluntly marginate. Eyes with 5-6 facets across greatest diameter. Supraocular tumulus either vestigial or distinct. Scape greatly attenuated at base, strongly incrassate apicad, not projecting beyond scrobe when in repose. Funicular segments II-VIII rather broader than long, IX about as long as broad.

Thorax (fig 19). Pronotum lacking mesial tubercles on disc, a small tubercle postero-laterally on each side, just behind the vestigially marginate lateral border of disc; antero-inferior corner of pronotum rectangular. Mesonotum dorsally with a shallow longitudinal impression, flanked on each side by a prominent, bluntly edged carina, which is slightly sigmoidal in dorsal view. In side-view, the carina is feebly impressed just behind the half. Mesoepinotal groove broadly and rather deeply impressed. Basal face of epinotum with a similar longitudinal impression, flanked on each side by a blunt ridge, which slightly diverges caudad; its posterior corner forming a rectangular tooth in side-view. Declivous face laterally unarmed. Epinotal spiracle situated on a vestigial oblique carina. Femora, especially hind femora, postero-ventrally crested, bearing at basal third a broader foliaceous lobe. Tibiae subprismatic.

Pedicel (fig 19, 38). Petiolar node trapezoidal in dorsal view, broadest in front with rounded corners, its dorsum flattened, with a short, prominent median laminule on posterior border. Postpetiole also slightly broader than long, with a distinct anterior face at right angle to dorsal face, having a median oval depression flanked by blunt, divergent ridges, bearing a vestigial tumulus on anterior, a more distinct and flat one, on posterior end. Tergum I of gaster with four longitudinal, coarse and blunt carinae; both lateral and median carinae becoming obsolete somewhat in front of posterior border.

Pilosity scarce, consisting of minute, decumbent, silvery hairs on body and appendages.


Kempf (1966) - Total length 2.8-3.0 mm; head length 0.64-0.72 mm; head width 0.59-0.64 mm; thorax length 0.83-0.88 mm; hind femur length 0.62-0.64 mm. Quite similar to the worker, with the following differences of the caste: Compound eyes with about 10 facets across greatest diameter. Ocelli small, anterior ocellus between anterior end of carinae on vertex, lateral ones on the outer face of the same carinae. Lateral pronotal tubercles well developed. Mesothoracic scutum with a pair of short antero-mesial ridges, starting at anterior border and fading out at the half of the length of scutum. Postero-laterally, a pair of ridges that start at the transcutal suture going forewards to the antero-lateral border, lateral border slightly upturned. Scutellum not separated by sutures from the tubercular and slightly prominent paraptera; posteriorly, the scutellum is bilobate. Epinotal spines prominent, in side-view as long as deep at base, compressed, bluntly tipped. Postpetiole more transverse than in worker. Wings somewhat infuscated, with the usual venation.


  • 2n = 20, karyotype = 20M (Panama) (Murakami et al., 1998).


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Achury R., and A.V. Suarez. 2017. Richness and composition of ground-dwelling ants in tropical rainforest and surrounding landscapes in the Colombian Inter-Andean valley. Neotropical Entomology
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  • Dattilo W. et al. 2019. MEXICO ANTS: incidence and abundance along the Nearctic-Neotropical interface. Ecology
  • Donoso D. A. 2014. Assembly mechanisms shaping tropical litter ant communities. Ecography 37 doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2013.00253.x
  • Fernandes, P.R. XXXX. Los hormigas del suelo en Mexico: Diversidad, distribucion e importancia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).
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  • INBio Collection (via Gbif)
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  • Kempf, W.W. 1972. Catalago abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical (Hym. Formicidae) Studia Entomologica 15(1-4).
  • Kweskin, M.P. 2004. Jigging in the fungus-growing antCyphomyrmex costatus: a response to collembolan garden invaders? Insectes Sociaux 51(2):158-162.
  • Longino J. T. 2013. Ants of Nicargua. Consulted on 18 Jan 2013.
  • Longino J. T. L., and M. G. Branstetter. 2018. The truncated bell: an enigmatic but pervasive elevational diversity pattern in Middle American ants. Ecography 41: 1-12.
  • Longino J. et al. ADMAC project. Accessed on March 24th 2017 at
  • Longino, J.T. 2010. Personal Communication. Longino Collection Database
  • Maes, J.-M. and W.P. MacKay. 1993. Catalogo de las hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) de Nicaragua. Revista Nicaraguense de Entomologia 23.
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