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.
  • Harpegnathos saltator queen among brood in a Captive colony. Photo by Dulneth Wijewardana



Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 13.961° to 6.4°.

Tropical South

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

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.


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.

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.
  • This species is a host for the milichiid fly species unknown (a myrmecophile) in India (Peeters et al., 1994; Milichiidae online).


  • Harpegnathos saltator worker from Kerala, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
  • Harpegnathos saltator worker from Kerala, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
. Owned by Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Images from AntWeb

Harpegnathos saltator casent0173581 head 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0173581 profile 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0173581 dorsal 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0173581 label 1.jpg
Queen (alate/dealate). Specimen code casent0173581. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Harpegnathos saltator casent0173582 head 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0173582 profile 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0173582 dorsal 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0173582 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0173582. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Harpegnathos saltator casent0179535 head 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0179535 profile 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0179535 dorsal 1.jpgHarpegnathos saltator casent0179535 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0179535. Photographer Erin Prado, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.


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.



Bingham (1903): Head, thorax and pedicel ferruginous red, closely and rather coarsely punctured, granulate; abdomen black, shining, not granulate, with punctures finer and more scattered; mandibles, antennae and legs yellow; the whole insect covered with short, sparse, erect pale hairs, and a minute, fine, sericeous shining pu�bescence on the mandibles, head, antenna', thorax and legs, visible only in certain lights. For the rest the characters of the genus.

Length: 14 - 17 mm


Bingham (1903): Similar to the worker; the ocelli placed very low down, almost in the middle of the front of the head.

Length: 17 mm


Bingham (1903): " Mandibles short, triangular, rather wide, but not elongate. Head somewhat longer than broad, strongly constricted behind the eyes and up to the occipital articulation. Concavity in front shorter and broader than in D. venator. Posterior face of the meta- notum strongly margined. First abdominal segment pyriform elongate as in D. venator. No constriction between the basal two segments. A small median carina behind the occiput. Smooth and shining. Metanotum, pedicel and a part of the sides of the mesonotum coarsely rugose. Some foveae or obsolete striae on the rest of the thorax. Pilosity as in D. venator. Reddish brown, the pedicel darker. Abdomen brown. Legs and antennae pale testaceous. AVings hyaline, nervures and stigma very pale." (Forel.)

Length: 9.5 mm


The name saltator refers to the power of the species to making the most surprising jumps when alarmed or disturbed.


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
  • Dad J. M., S. A. Akbar, H. Bharti, and A. A. Wachkoo. 2019. Community structure and ant species diversity across select sites ofWestern Ghats, India. Acta Ecologica Sinica 39: 219–228.
  • Dias R. K. S. 2002. Current knowledge on ants of Sri Lanka. ANeT Newsletter 4: 17- 21.
  • 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.
  • Dias R. K. S., and K. R. K. Anuradha Kosgamage. 2012. Occurrence and species diversity of ground-dwelling worker ants (Family: Formicidae) in selected lands in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. J. Sci. Univ. Kelaniya 7: 55-72.
  • Donisthorpe H. 1937. A new species of Harpegnathos Jerd., with some remarks on the genus, and other known species (Hym. Formicidae). Entomologist's Monthly Magazine 73: 196-201.
  • Emery C. 1911. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125.
  • Gumawardene, N.R., J.D. Majer and J.P. Edirisinghe. 2008. Diversity and richness of ant species in a lowland wet forest reserve in Sri Lanka. Asian Myrmecology 2:71-83
  • Gunawardene N. R., J. D. Majer, and J. P. Edirisinghe. 2008. Diversity and richness of ant species in a lowland wet forest reserve in Sri Lanka. Asian Myrmecology 2: 71-83.
  • 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.
  • Guénard B., and R. R. Dunn. 2012. A checklist of the ants of China. Zootaxa 3558: 1-77.
  • 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.
  • Musthak Ali T. M. 1991. Ant Fauna of Karnataka-1. Newsletter of IUSSI Indian Chapter 5(1-2): 1-8.
  • Narendra A., H. Gibb, and T. M. Ali. 2011. Structure of ant assemblages in Western Ghats, India: role of habitat, disturbance and introduced species. Insect Conservation and diversity 4(2): 132-141.
  • Rajan P. D., M. Zacharias, and T. M. Mustak Ali. 2006. Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae. Fauna of Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (Karnataka). Conservation Area Series, Zool. Surv. India.i-iv,27: 153-188.
  • Sheela S. 2008. Handbook of Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Zoological Survey of India, 56 pages
  • Sureh P. V., V. V. Sudheendrakumar, C. F. Binoy, G. Mathew, and T. C. Narendran. 1999. The macro Hymenopteran fauna of Parambikulam wildlife Sanctuary. Zoos' Print Journal 14(4): 1-2.
  • Tiwari R. N. 1999. Taxonomic studies on ants of southern India (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Memoirs of the Zoological Survey of India 18(4): 1-96.
  • Tiwari, R.N. 1999. Taxonomic studies on ants of southern India (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Memoirs of the Zoological Survey of India 18(4):1-96
  • Varghese T. 2004. Taxonomic studies on ant genera of the Indian Institute of Science campus with notes on their nesting habits. Pp. 485-502 in : Rajmohana, K.; Sudheer, K.; Girish Kumar, P.; Santhosh, S. (eds.) 2004. Perspectives on biosystematics and biodiversity. Prof. T.C. Narendran commemoration volume. Kerala: Systematic Entomology Research Scholars Association, xxii + 666 pp.