Leptomyrmex rufipes

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Leptomyrmex rufipes
Leptomyrmex rufipes
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Dolichoderinae
Tribe: Leptomyrmecini
Genus: Leptomyrmex
Species: L. rufipes
Binomial name
Leptomyrmex rufipes
Emery, 1895

Leptomyrmex rufipes side view

Leptomyrmex rufipes top view

Specimen labels


L. rufipes has been recorded in rainforest, mesophyll vine forest, Eucalyptus open forest, and wet and dry sclerophyll. Nests occur in cavities in live trees, on the ground at tree bases, in large open mounds, in or under logs, and under rocks.

At a Glance • Replete Workers  

Photo Gallery

  • Leptomyrmex rufipes worker (above) and its mimic Formicomimus mirabilis, a cerambycid beetle (below). Both were photographed at Mt Glorious, near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Photo by ‎Nick Monaghan.


Workers are slender and long-limbed. The black gaster and (usually) dark distal portions of the femora contrast with the otherwise pale orange head, mesosoma and appendages. In body size and coloration, this species resembles Leptomyrmex cnemidatus and Leptomyrmex varians. The pale tibiae of L. rufipes easily distinguish it from the others, which have dark tibiae. The necklike constriction at the posterior margin of the head is also distinctive - this margin is broadly rounded in L. cnemidatus. In L. varians the head narrows beyond the eyes, but does not project into a dorsoventrally compressed ‘neck’. Head shape is sufficient to distinguish L. rufipes from all congeners with the exception of its sister species, Leptomyrmex ruficeps and Leptomyrmex rothneyi. These species can be separated from L. rufipes based on color patterns and geographic range: L. ruficeps is black with a red head and restricted to the Wet Tropics and L. rothneyi is a mottled, dark species confined to the southeast corner of Queensland. (Lucky and Ward 2010)

Identification Keys including this Taxon


This species occupies the widest geographic range of all the Leptomyrmex species, extending from the base of the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland to the northern border of New South Wales. (Lucky and Ward 2010)

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -19.00085923° to -28.25413844°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia (type locality).

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.

Elevation Range

Occurrence at collecting sites during elevational surveys of rainforest in the Eungella region, Queensland, Australia (Burwell et al., 2020).
Species Elevation (m asl)
200 400 600 800 1000 1200
Leptomyrmex rufipes 20-30 30-40 20-30
Shading indicates the bands of elevation where species was recorded.
Numbers are the percentage of total samples containing this species.


Explore-icon.png Explore Overview of Leptomyrmex biology 
These conspicuous ants are most often encountered individually or as small groups of 2 or 3 foragers on the surface of the ground any time of the day or night. Because of their long legs and thin bodies, they superficially resemble spiders. This is especially true when they are disturbed, as they extend their legs, raise their gasters, and run quickly to escape danger. This has led to their being given the common name "spider ants."

Nests are found in soil or in dead wood, either standing or on the ground, and are often at the base of trees. Colony sizes average a few hundred workers and a single queen. In all but a handful of species, the queen is wingless and worker-like, differing from workers only in being slightly larger and with an enlarged mesosoma. In a few species the queens are fully winged, as they are in most other ants.

When a large source of food is found, workers of Leptomyrmex will return to their nest and recruit additional workers to help utilise the newly found resource. They also use workers as "living storage vessels". These special workers, called repletes, accept liquids from returning foragers who transfer their liquid foods to these selected workers. These special workers continue to accept liquids until their gasters become greatly enlarged and extended. When enlarged, repletes cannot escape the nest and remain inside suspended from the ceiling. They can retain these fluids for extended periods and dispense it on demand when food is in short supply. ‎




Leptomyrmex neotropicus (fossil only)

Leptomyrmex relictus


Leptomyrmex burwelli

Leptomyrmex dolichoscapus


Leptomyrmex mjobergi

Leptomyrmex varians

Leptomyrmex unicolor

Leptomyrmex flavitarsus

Leptomyrmex puberulus

Leptomyrmex darlingtoni

Leptomyrmex fragilis

Leptomyrmex niger

Leptomyrmex erythrocephalus

Leptomyrmex wiburdi

Leptomyrmex cnemidatus

Leptomyrmex nigriventris

Leptomyrmex tibialis

Leptomyrmex geniculatus

Leptomyrmex nigriceps

Leptomyrmex pallens

Leptomyrmex rufithorax

Leptomyrmex rufipes

Leptomyrmex rothneyi

Leptomyrmex ruficeps

Based on Barden et al., 2017. Note only selected Leptomyrmex species are included.


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

  • rufipes. Leptomyrmex varians var. rufipes Emery, 1895g: 352 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Lucky & Ward, 2010: 52 (ergatoid q., m.). Subspecies of varians: Wheeler, W.M. 1934c: 104. Raised to species: Lucky & Ward, 2010: 50. Senior synonym of quadricolor: Lucky & Ward, 2010: 50.
  • quadricolor. Leptomyrmex varians subsp. quadricolor Wheeler, W.M. 1934c: 104 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Junior synonym of rufipes: Lucky & Ward, 2010: 50.

Type Material

  • Leptomyrmex varians rufipes: Syntype, worker(s), Laidley (as Laidely) and Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Genoa.
  • Leptomyrmex varians quadricolor: Syntype, 2 workers, Lankelly Creek, McIlwraith (as McIlthwaite) Range, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, The Natural History Museum.
  • Leptomyrmex varians quadricolor: Syntype, 16 workers, Lankelly Creek, McIlwraith (as McIlthwaite) Range, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, Museum of Comparative Zoology.
  • Leptomyrmex varians quadricolor: Syntype, 2 workers, Lankelly Creek, McIlwraith (as McIlthwaite) Range, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, Museum Victoria, Melbourne.
  • Leptomyrmex varians quadricolor: Syntype, 3 workers, Lankelly Creek, McIlwraith (as McIlthwaite) Range, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, National Museum of Natural History.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.



Lucky and Ward (2010) – measurements (n = 11) HL 1.94 –2.43, HW 1.08–1.39, MFC 0.24–0.34, IOD 0.59–0.78, SL 3.62–4.35, EL 0.40–0.46, WL 3.61–4.52, PW 0.96–1.26, DPW 0.37–0.51, HTL 4.52–5.67, HTWmin 0.14–0.19, HTWmax 0.16–0.25, CI 0.54–0.64, SI 2.75–3.35, OI 0.11–0.13, HTC 0.61–0.88.

Medium sized species (HL 1.94 –2.43, HW 1.08–1.39) with head long and slender, excluding mandibles head less than twice as long as broad (CI 0.54–0.64). Head widest at eye level, sides of head subparallel, narrowing anteriorly, genae slightly concave. Posterior to eyes, head narrowing abruptly to dorsoventrally flattened neck-like constriction. Masticatory margin of mandible with 15 to 20 teeth and denticles interspersed. Anterior clypeal margin flat to weakly concave. Eyes positioned approximately at midline of head, eyes small, convex, hairless, not reaching lateral margins. Antennae long and slender, not compressed, scapes surpassing posterior margin of head by 2/3 their length.

Pronotum slender, elongate. Propodeum short, dorsal face of propodeum flat or with transverse impression at anterior end, declivitous face short and convex, propodeal angle very rounded. Petiole triangular in profile, posterior face with slight median longitudinal impression, dorsum rounded, posterior face longer than anterior face. Ventral surface of petiole nearly flat. Gaster elongate-elliptical. Legs very long and slender, not compressed.

Surface very finely shagreened and somewhat shining throughout. Mandibles with a coarse row of punctures along margin. Pubescence pale, sparse. Hairs minimal, confined to clypeus, venter and gaster, 0–5 brown bristles on hind tibiae. Body rufotestaceous with black gaster. Head and antennae rufotestaceous. Femora pale at base and sometimes throughout, but often the distal 1/4 to 3/4 of the femur is black. Tibiae and tarsi yellow, gaster black with the anterior portion of first segment and anal orifice pale yellow.


Lucky and Ward (2010) – Head broader than in worker. Three ocelli deeply set into head in triangular formation, the anteriormost one largest, the posterior two smaller. Pronotum, mesonotum and propodeum more voluminous than in worker. Dorsal face of propodeum convex, lacking transverse impression. Petiole broader than high, with flat dorsal face. Gaster globose, larger than in worker. Scapes, femora and tibiae robust.

Queen coloration similar to that of worker, but with only the first one or two segments of the gaster black, and the remainder rufotestaceous.


Lucky and Ward (2010) - measurements (n = 11) HL 1.57–1.92, HW 1.14–1.37, SL 0.38–0.50, EL 0.59–0.71, HTL 4.61–4.95, CI 0.68–0.77, SI 0.33–0.37, SI2 0.65–0.78.

Neotype Specimen Labels


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Burwell C.J., and A. Nakamura. 2011. Distribution of ant speces along an altitudinal transect in continuous rainforest in subtropical Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum -Nature 55(2): 391-411.
  • Lucky A., and P. S. Ward. 2010. Taxonomic revision of the ant genus Leptomyrmex Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 2688: 1-67.
  • Taylor R. W. 1987. A checklist of the ants of Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) Division of Entomology Report 41: 1-92.
  • Wheeler W. M. 1915. The Australian honey-ants of the genus Leptomyrmex Mayr. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 51: 255-286.