Harpegnathos saltator

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Harpegnathos saltator
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Harpegnathos
Species: H. saltator
Binomial name
Harpegnathos saltator
Jerdon, 1851

Harpegnathos saltator casent0101783 profile 1.jpg

Harpegnathos saltator casent0101783 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

At a Glance • Gamergate  


Photo Gallery

  • Harpegnathos saltator worker, Shimoga, India. Photo by Ajay Narendra.
  • Worker with prey. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
  • Inside the underground nest of H. saltator. Photo by Bert Hölldobler.
  • Harpegnathos saltator worker from Kerala, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.



Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Oriental Region: India (type locality), Sri Lanka.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Nesting Habits

Entrance tunnel leading down to a small nest of H. saltator The floor of one chamber can be seen to be wallpapered with empty cocoons. Photo by Bert Hölldobler.

The nests of H. saltator are exceptionally complex by ponerine standards (Peeters et al. 1994). In a mature colony the nest consists of a series of stacked chambers forming a nearly spherical structure, surmounted by a thick vaulted roof and separated from the surrounding soil by a hollow space. A tunnel leads down to a separate refuse chamber. Peeters & Hölldobler (1995) hypothesized that this nest design is an adaptation to survive periodic flooding. In addition, H. saltator “wallpapers” inner surfaces of its nests with discarded cocoons. This wallpaper is glued down and may help to keep the chambers dry. See Nests.

Queens and workers are morphologically similar (except for wings) and gamergates reproduce once the founding queen has died. In these two categories of egg-layers, the proportions of Cuticular Hydrocarbons change in a similar way with the onset of ovarian activity, while young virgin queens resemble infertile workers (Liebig et al. 2000). Thus the hydrocarbons are not related to morphological caste but to reproductive physiology.


In newly orphaned colonies, mated workers aggressively compete in order to achieve reproductive status (Liebig, 1998; Liebig et al., 2000). Those that are successful develop their ovaries and begin laying eggs (they are now gamergates; Liebig et al., 1998, 2000; Peeters et al., 2000).

Dominance interactions between two young workers of H. saltator. During this ritualized antennal tournament, the white individual moves forward and rapidly beats with its antennae the black individual, which retreats. Seconds later, the situation is reversed and the black individual moves forward. This alternates several times during one tournament bout, with no obvious winner. Drawing by Malu Obermayer.
This jump-and-hold behaviour functions to police workers with partly developed ovaries. The black individual jumped at the white one from the side and grabbed her on the thorax. The helpless victim can then be dragged around and held for hours. This is likely to result in an hormonal change that underlies subordinate status, and she will devote herself to brood or other non-reproductive tasks. Drawing by Malu Obermayer.


Harpegnathos saltator has had their entire genome sequenced.

Palomeque et al. (2015) found class II mariner elements, a form of transposable elements, in the genome of this ant.


  • Harpegnathos saltator worker from Kerala, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
  • Harpegnathos saltator worker from Kerala, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.


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

  • saltator. Harpegnathos saltator Jerdon, 1851: 117 (w.) INDIA. Combination in Drepanognathus: Smith, F. 1858b: 82; in Harpegnathos: Forel, 1900c: 64; Emery, 1911d: 59. Forel, 1913e: 660 (q.m.). Current subspecies: nominal plus cruentatus, taprobanae. See also: Bingham, 1903: 50.



References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Basu P. 1994. Ecology of ground foraging ants in a tropical evergreen forest in Western Ghats, India. PhD Thesis, School of ecology and environmental sciences, Pondichery University, India. 155 pages.
  • Bharti H. 2001. Check list of ants from north-west India I. Uttar Pradesh Journal of Zoology 21(2): 163-167.
  • Chapman, J. W., and Capco, S. R. 1951. Check list of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Asia. Monogr. Inst. Sci. Technol. Manila 1: 1-327
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  • Dias R. K. S. 2006. Current taxonomic status of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Sri Lanka. The Fauna of Sri Lanka: 43-52. Bambaradeniya, C.N.B. (Editor), 2006. Fauna of Sri Lanka: Status of Taxonomy, Research and Conservation. The World Conservation Union, Colombo, Sri Lanka & Government of Sri Lanka. viii + 308pp.
  • Dias R. K. S., K. R. K. A. Kosgamage, and H. A. W. S. Peiris. 2012. The Taxonomy and Conservation Status of Ants (Order: Hymenoptera, Family: Formicidae) in Sri Lanka. In: The National Red List 2012 of Sri Lanka; Conservation Status of the Fauna and Flora. Weerakoon, D.K. & S. Wijesundara Eds., Ministry of Environment, Colombo, Sri Lanka. p11-19.
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  • Gunawardene N. R., J. D. Majer, and J. P. Edirisinghe. 2012. Correlates of ant 5Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and tree species diversity in Sri Lanka. Myrmecological News 17: 81-90.
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  • Musthak Ali T. M. 1982. Ant fauna (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Bangalore with observations on their nesting and foraging habits. Thesis Abstracts. Haryana Agricultural University 8: 370-371.
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  • Sheela S. 2008. Handbook of Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Zoological Survey of India, 56 pages
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