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Temporal range: 20.43–0 Ma Early Miocene – Recent
Discothyrea testacea
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Proceratiinae
Tribe: Proceratiini
Genus: Discothyrea
Roger, 1863
Type species
Discothyrea testacea
49 species
2 fossil species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)

Discothyrea testacea casent0103847 profile 1.jpg

Discothyrea testacea

Discothyrea testacea casent0103847 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label


Discothyrea are all small, relatively cryptic ants with small colonies (10-20 workers) which are generally found in rotten wood, leaf litter, or under stones (Brown, 1958a; Bolton, 1973a). Brown (1958a) first mentioned the possibility that they could be specialised predators of arthropod eggs since the closely related genus Proceratium shows such a trophic specialisation, and was able to find evidence for his theory on the basis of observations of an Australian Discothyrea species (Brown, 1958b). Most studied species prefer spider eggs, although one species was found in the nests of other ants (Brown, 1980). Queens of one African species found their nests within spider egg sacs, which provide both food and lodging for the first generation of workers (Dejean and Dejean 1998).

At a Glance • Ergatoid queen  

Photo Gallery

  • Single worker of Discothyrea sauteri collected from Yeosu, Korea. Photo by Minsoo Dong.
  • A Discothyrea queen from Ecuador. Photo by Phil Hoenle.


Bharti et al. (2015) - This distinctive genus can be easily recognized with large terminal antennal segment, reduced frontal lobes, short antennal scapes, and strongly arched 2nd gastral segment. However, the genus may be confused with the closely related Proceratium from which it is differentiated by the single tooth at the tip of the mandibles, the overhanging anterior margin of the clypeus, and the configuration of the antennae [Sarnat, Economo, 2012].

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Keys including this Genus


Keys to Species in this Genus


Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps

Species by Region

Number of species within biogeographic regions, along with the total number of species for each region.

Afrotropical Region Australasian Region Indo-Australian Region Malagasy Region Nearctic Region Neotropical Region Oriental Region Palaearctic Region
Species 20 7 5 1 1 11 6 5
Total Species 2840 1735 3042 932 835 4378 1740 2862


Fossils are known from: Dominican amber, Dominican Republic (Burdigalian, Early Miocene), Mexican amber, Chiapas, Mexico (Middle Miocene), Zhangpu amber, Zhangpu County, Fujian Province, China (Miocene) (an unidentified species, Wang et al., 2021).


Life History Traits

  • Queen type: winged or dealate; ergatoid (Peeters, 1997)
  • Mean colony size: 73 (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Compound colony type: not parasitic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Nest site: hypogaeic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Diet class: predator (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging stratum: subterranean/leaf litter (Greer et al., 2021)


Brown (1958: p.251) described ergatoid queens in some species.


Worker Morphology

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 • Eyes: 11-100 ommatidia • Pronotal Spines: absent • Mesonotal Spines: absent • Propodeal Spines: absent • Petiolar Spines: absent • Caste: none or weak • Sting: present • Metaplural Gland: present • Cocoon: present

Figure 6. Labiomaxillary complexes of some Discothyrea: A-B) SEM images of Discothyrea oculata labiomaxillary complex (ANTWEB1008518, available at Antweb, images by Roberto Keller); C) Discothyrea clavicornis (UFV-LABECOL-011021), also showing a 6,4 palpal formula; D) D. neotropica (UFV-LABECOL-000067) with a 3,2 palpal formula; E) Discothyrea horni (UFVLABECOL-009622), 2,2 palpal formula; F) Discothyrea sexarticulata (UFV-LABECOL-010770), 2,2 palpal formula. Circles and squares represent the maxillary and labial palpomeres, respectively. Dark blue is the first palpomere; light blue is the second; red is the third; black is the fourth; white is the fifth; and green is the sixth. Arrowheads in C and F indicate basal bent of first palpomere (not a division between two palpomeres).
Figure 7. Antennal pits revealed in 3D models of some Afrotropical Discothyrea: A and B) Discothyrea michelae, dorsal view of the antenna and zoom in first flagellomere; C and D) D. michelae, ventral view of the antenna and zoom in penultimate flagellomere; E and F) Discothyrea gaia, lateral view of the antenna and zoom in penultimate and antepenultimate flagellomeres. Zoomed areas of B, D and F highlighted in A, C and E by red squares. The 3D models of the species are available at the Dryad Digital Repository (Hita-Garcia et al., 2019a, 2019b), and are also available at the Sketchfab page of the the Economo Lab, from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST-Economolab, s. d.a).


Species Uncertain

  • n = 15, 2n = 30 (Indonesia) (Imai et al., 1985; Mariano et al., 2015) (near D. bryanti).

All Karyotype Records for Genus

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

  • DISCOTHYREA [Proceratiinae: Proceratiini]
    • Discothyrea Roger, 1863a: 176. Type-species: Discothyrea testacea, by monotypy.
    • Discothyrea senior synonym of Prodiscothyrea, Pseudosysphincta: Brown, 1958g: 248.
  • PRODISCOTHYREA [junior synonym of Discothyrea]
    • Prodiscothyrea Wheeler, W.M. 1916i: 33. Type-species: Prodiscothyrea velutina, by monotypy.
    • Prodiscothyrea junior synonym of Discothyrea: Brown, 1958g: 248.
  • PSEUDOSYSPHINCTA [junior synonym of Discothyrea]
    • Pseudosysphincta Arnold, 1916: 161. Type-species: Pseudosysphincta poweri, by original designation.
    • Pseudosysphincta junior synonym of Discothyrea: Brown, 1958g: 248.
  • [Pseudosphincta Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 645, incorrect subsequent spelling.]