Every Ant Tells a Story - And Scientists Explain Their Stories Here
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Dolichoderus dentatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Dolichoderinae
Forel, 1878
28 genera
836 species
20 fossil genera
134 fossil species
Evolutionary Placement


















See Phylogeny of Formicidae for details.

This subfamily contains some of the most common and well-known species of Australian ants. This includes the genus Iridomyrmex, a group found throughout Australia, often in very large numbers. Some of the rarer Australian ants are also in this subfamily. For example, Nebothriomyrmex majeri has been collected fewer than 10 times. A significant introduced pest, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), is also a dolichoderine.

Most species of Dolichoderinae are general predators or scavengers. Many also tend Hemiptera to collect honeydew or are associated with caterpillars. Nests are found in a wide variety of locations, including in the soil, under rocks and other objects, in rotten and living wood, in termite mounds, and in cracks between rocks. Some species (in the genus Arnoldius) are thought to establish their nests by new queens invading the nests of other ants, killing the queen, and using the captured workers to help raise her own offspring.

Species of Dolichoderinae can be found in most regions of the world and in all major habitats. There are about 1000 described species and subspecies placed in 26 genera world-wide. Fifteen genera and over 160 species and subspecies have been described from Australia, with numerous taxa still awaiting description. Four of the genera, Arnoldius, Doleromyrma, Froggattella and Nebothriomyrmex, are only known from Australia. The relationships among these genera have been well documented (see Phylogeny of Dolichoderinae).

The Dolichoderines lack a sting, but are armed with defensive compounds produced by the anal gland - a structure unique to the subfamily. This is the source of the pungent, and often unpleasant odors produced by many species when they are disturbed, crushed or otherwise annoyed. In many species colonies may be polygynous and/or polydomous. Some are predaceous, but most appear to be generalized scavengers with a strong liking for carbohydrates taken directly or indirectly from plant sources. In addition to founding colonies via single newly mated queens, some produce new colonies by budding or fission. Most Dolichoderines are free-living; a few are social parasites on other members of their subfamily.


The mesosoma is attached to the gaster by a single distinct segment, the petiole. The gaster is smooth, without constrictions between the segments. The sting is absent and the tip of the gaster is slit-like and without a circular opening (an acidopore).

Species of Dolichoderinae are most often confused with species of the subfamily Formicinae because both have a single segmented petiole, lack a sting and are often similar in overall body size and shape This is especially true for the smaller species such as those in Doleromyrma and Tapinoma. However, dolichoderines can always be separated from formicines because the tip of the gaster has a slit-like opening while all formicines have a small circular opening.

Males: Boudinot (2015) - The Dolichoderinae are uniquely identified by the telomere, which is strongly reduced and does not extend anteroventrad the basimere. Males of the subfamily are further identified by the following combination of characters: oblique mesopleural sulcus present; seven or fewer closed cells present on forewing; jugal lobe absent; petiolar peduncle short or absent; abdominal segment III unpetiolated; abdominal segment IV without cinctus between pre- and postsclerites; abdominal sternum IX unpronged and edentate. Additional characters for distinguishing males of the Dolichoderinae from the Aneuretinae and Formicinae are indicated in couplets 19 and 20 of the key to subfamilies key.

Keys including this Subfamily

Keys to Genus in this Subfamily


Distribution and Species Richness based on AntMaps


Extant Taxa

Tribes Valid Genera % World Genera Invalid Genera Valid Species/Subsp. % World Species Invalid Species/Subsp.
5 28 5.7% 23 836 5.78% 320

Fossil Taxa

Fossil Genera % World Fossil Genera Valid Fossil Species/Subsp. % World Fossil Species/Subsp.
20 13% 134 16.24%

Fossils known from: Aix-en-Provence, France (Late Oligocene), Arkansas amber, Malvern, Arkansas, United States (Lutetian, Middle Eocene), Baltic amber (Bartonian, Middle to Late Eocene), Belarus amber, near Kobryn, Belarus (Quaternary peat site, precise age unknown), Bembridge Marls, Isle of Wight, UK (Priabonian, Late Eocene), Bitterfeld amber (Bartonian, Middle to Late Eocene), Bol’shaya Svetlovodnaya, Sikhote-Alin, Russia (Priabonian, Late Eocene), Célas, Gard, France (Late Eocene), Chon-Tyz mine, Naryn Province, Kyrgyzstan (Middle Miocene), Danish-Scandinavian amber (Bartonian, Middle to Late Eocene), Dominican amber, Dominican Republic (Burdigalian, Early Miocene), Florissant, Colorado, United States (Late Eocene), Foremost Formation amber, Alberta, Canada (Campanian, Late Cretaceous), Green River Formation, Colorado, United States (Lutetian, Middle Eocene), Kishenehn Formation shale, Montana, United States (Lutetian, Middle Eocene), Kleinkems, Germany (Early Oligocene), Kuclín, near Bílina, Czech Republic (Late Eocene), Malyi Kamyshlak, Kerch, Crimea, Russian Federation (Middle Miocene), Oeningen, Switzerland (Messinian, Late Miocene), Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada (Early Miocene?), Radoboj, Croatia (Burdigalian, Early Miocene), Rott, Westphalia, Germany (Late Oligocene), Rovno amber (Priabonian, Late Eocene), Sakhalin amber, Ukraine (Thanetian, Paleocene), Shanwang, China (Early Miocene), Sicilian amber, Italy (Late/Upper Miocene).

List of Tribes and Genera



Extant Genera


Fossil Genera



Boudinot (2015) - The Dolichoderinae is one of the major ant lineages, with over 700 described species distributed in 28 valid genera. Males are unknown for four genera (Ecphorella, Gracilidris, Loweriella, Nebothriomyrmex). One of the historically intractable problems of myrmecology has been the separation of male Dolichoderinae and Formicinae. Here, the telomeral character described by Yoshimura & Fisher (2011) is confirmed as a diagnostic synapomorphy of the subfamily on a global scale, while the antennal torulus to clypeus distance character was first described to the author’s knowledge in Czechowski et al. (2012). Several other characters were found to distinguish male Dolichoderinae and Formicinae, as indicated in the key and diagnosis. Genera of Dolichoderinae have been keyed globally by Shattuck (1992), although this key stands in need of updating. A key to the New World dolichoderine genera is in preparation (B. Boudinot, in prep.).


Karyotype Data

Explore Karyotype Data: All, Drilldown

Known Haploid Counts: 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16.

Haploid Count Details: 5 (Taxon: Tapinoma), 5 (Taxon: Tapinoma melanocephalum), 7 (Taxon: Tapinoma indicum), 7 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex), 7 (Taxon: Doleromyrma), 8 (Taxon: Anonychomyrma itinerans), 8 (Taxon: Papyrius nitidus), 8 (Taxon: Linepithema humile), 8 (Taxon: Tapinoma erraticum), 8 (Taxon: Tapinoma erraticum), 8 (Taxon: Tapinoma sessile), 9 (Taxon: Dorymyrmex thoracicus), 9 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex bicknelli), 9 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex mattiroloi), 9 (Taxon: Tapinoma simrothi), 9 (Taxon: Tapinoma simrothi), 9 (Taxon: Technomyrmex albipes), 9 (Taxon: Technomyrmex albipes), 9 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex), 9 (Taxon: Tapinoma nigerrimum), 9 (Taxon: Tapinoma nigerrimum), 9 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex purpureus), 11 (Taxon: Bothriomyrmex), 11 (Taxon: Bothriomyrmex corsicus), 12 (Taxon: Leptomyrmex erythrocephalus), 13 (Taxon: Dorymyrmex bicolor), 14 (Taxon: Dolichoderus scabridus), 14 (Taxon: Ochetellus glaber), 16 (Taxon: Forelius mccooki).

Known Diploid Counts: 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 26, 28, 30, 32, 33, 38, 48.

Diploid Count Details: 10 (Taxon: Tapinoma indicum), 10 (Taxon: Tapinoma), 10 (Taxon: Dolichoderus lutosus), 10 (Taxon: Tapinoma melanocephalum), 10 (Taxon: Tapinoma melanocephalum), 10 (Taxon: Tapinoma melanocephalum), 12 (Taxon: Doleromyrma), 14 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex), 14 (Taxon: Doleromyrma), 16 (Taxon: Anonychomyrma itinerans), 16 (Taxon: Papyrius nitidus), 16 (Taxon: Philidris cordata), 16 (Taxon: Philidris cordata), 16 (Taxon: Technomyrmex albipes), 16 (Taxon: Technomyrmex albipes), 16 (Taxon: Anonychomyrma), 16 (Taxon: Linepithema humile), 16 (Taxon: Tapinoma erraticum), 16 (Taxon: Tapinoma erraticum), 16 (Taxon: Tapinoma sessile), 18 (Taxon: Dorymyrmex pulchellus), 18 (Taxon: Dorymyrmex pyramicus), 18 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex anceps), 18 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex bicknelli), 18 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex mattiroloi), 18 (Taxon: Linepithema fuscum), 18 (Taxon: Linepithema fuscum), 18 (Taxon: Tapinoma simrothi), 18 (Taxon: Technomyrmex albipes), 18 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex), 18 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex), 18 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex), 18 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex), 18 (Taxon: Dolichoderus), 18 (Taxon: Tapinoma nigerrimum), 18 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex purpureus), 18 (Taxon: Dolichoderus bidens), 20 (Taxon: Dolichoderus voraginosus), 22 (Taxon: Arnoldius pusillus), 22 (Taxon: Dolichoderus diversus), 26 (Taxon: Dorymyrmex bicolor), 26 (Taxon: Dorymyrmex flavus), 28 (Taxon: Azteca trigona), 28 (Taxon: Dolichoderus scabridus), 28 (Taxon: Ochetellus glaber), 28 (Taxon: Technomyrmex), 28 (Taxon: Technomyrmex), 28 (Taxon: Dolichoderus quadripunctatus), 30 (Taxon: Technomyrmex), 30 (Taxon: Technomyrmex), 30 (Taxon: Dolichoderus thoracicus), 32 (Taxon: Forelius mccooki), 33 (Taxon: Dolichoderus thoracicus), 38 (Taxon: Dolichoderus decollatus), 38 (Taxon: Dolichoderus attelaboides), 38 (Taxon: Dolichoderus imitator), 48 (Taxon: Iridomyrmex anceps).


DOLICHODERINAE [subfamily of Formicidae]

  • Dolichoderidae Forel, 1878: 364 [as subfamily of Formicidae]. Type-genus: Dolichoderus.

Shattuck (1992b): Seven characters were found which suggest the subfamily is monophyletic. These are

(1) loss of pupal cocoons

(2)reduction of the larval neck

(3) reduced number of larval hairs

(4) lightly sclerotized larval mandibles

(5) larval maxillary palp and galea reduced to sensilla

(6) small larval sericteries

(7) cyclopentanoid monoterpene production.