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Mesoponera melanaria
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Alliance: Odontomachus genus group
Genus: Mesoponera
Emery, 1900
Type species
Ponera melanaria, now Mesoponera melanaria
26 species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)

Pachycondyla ingesta casent0235598 p 1 high.jpg

Pachycondyla ingesta casent0235598 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels


Mesoponera is a moderately sized genus, with more than 25 described species and subspecies. It is restricted to the Old World tropics from Sub-Saharan Africa to Australia and the Solomon Islands.


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Mesoponera workers are perhaps the least derived of any ponerine genus, as they lack any obvious apomorphies. Mesoponera bears superficial resemblance to a number of other relatively plesiomorphic genera, especially Fisheropone, Neoponera, Mayaponera, Pseudoponera, and Hypoponera, and to a lesser degree genera such as Hagensia,Megaponera, and Paltothyreus. Mesoponera can be separated from these genera by the following combination of characters (most of which are probably plesiomorphic): mandibles without a basal groove, frontal lobes very small and closely approximated, eyes relatively small and placed anterior of head midline, preocular carinae absent, pronotum without sharp lateral margins, metanotal groove shallow to moderately deep (in Mesoponera subiridescens and Xiphopelta species), propodeum narrowed dorsally, metapleural gland orifice without a U-shaped posterior lip, metatibia with a large pectinate spur and a smaller simple spur, petiole surmounted by a simple scale which lacks sharp lateral margins, gaster with only a moderate constriction between A3 and A4, metatibiae with two spurs, arolia not prominent, and head and body only weakly sculptured with sparse pilosity but dense pubescence.

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Keys including this Genus


Keys to Species in this Genus


Members of this genus are found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa (including Madagascar) extending to Yemen (Mesoponera flavopilosa) and the Seychelles (Mesoponera melanaria macra), with a second set of species occurring from Sri Lanka eastward to northern Australia and the Solomon Islands. (Schmidt and Shattuck 2014)

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 2 5 4 0 0 3 2
Total Species 2839 1735 3036 932 834 4378 1708 2836


Almost nothing is known about the ecology or behavior of most Mesoponera species, especially members of the M. melanaria and M. subiridescens groups. Donisthorpe (1941) and Wilson (1958c) note that Mesoponera papuana nests in rotting wood and forages diurnally in leaf litter, and that Mesoponera manni nests in rotting wood or soil, but otherwise reports of their habits are scarce.

Most species in the M. ingesta group are similarly unstudied, but Mesoponera caffraria has received a fair bit of attention. This species is a predator of insects and also collects sugary liquids. It is locally abundant (Lévieux, 1983) and colonies are fairly small (roughly 60 to 120 workers; Agbogba, 1992, 1994). Nesting occurs in the ground (Villet, 1990b) or in active or abandoned termitaries (Agbogba, 1992; Déjean et al., 1996, 1997), and colony founding is semiclaustral (Villet, 1990b). Queens inhibit reproduction by workers, but orphaned workers lay fertile eggs (Villet & Duncan, 1992). The division of labor of M. caffraria workers has been well studied and is unusual. Rather than displaying a typical age-dependent polyethism, individual workers show a remarkable degree of task specialization, which is determined at an early age (Agbogba, 1992, 1994). Apparently only a low rate of role change occurs after this initial specialization (Bonavita & Poveda, 1970; Agbogba, 1992). Roughly two-thirds of workers specialize on intra-nest activities (studied by Agbogba, 1991), while the remainder specialize on foraging (Bonavita & Poveda, 1970). Foragers further specialize on the collection of sugary liquids or on either the stinging or retrieval of insect prey. When hunting termites, the behavior of M. caffraria foragers varies depending on the species and caste of the termites encountered (Agbogba, 1985). Interestingly, large groups of M. caffraria foragers will attack termite nests, and the entire ant colony will then emigrate into the nest, at least temporarily (Agbogba, 1990, 1992). Both the recruitment of foragers and the movement of the colony are coordinated through tandem running, using both visual and chemical cues (Agbogba, 1984 and 1992). Masson (1970a, 1970b, 1972) studied the neuroanatomy and neurodevelopment of M. caffraria, Bonavita & Lemasne (1970) studied food exchange between M. caffraria workers, and Bonavita & Poveda (1972) examined intestinal structure in M. caffraria larvae.

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 60-120 (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Compound colony type: not parasitic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Nest site: hypogaeic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Diet class: omnivore (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging stratum: subterranean/leaf litter (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging behaviour: cooperative (Greer et al., 2021)




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


Species Uncertain

  • Mesoponera sp.1: 2n = 28 (Malaysia) (Goni et al., 1982).
  • Mesoponera sp.2: 2n = 22 (Malaysia) (Goni et al., 1982).
  • Mesoponera sp.3: 2n = 36 (Malaysia) (Goni et al., 1982).

All Karyotype Records for Genus

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Taxon Haploid Diploid Karyotype Locality Source Notes
Mesoponera 22 Malaysia Goni et al., 1982
Mesoponera 28 Malaysia Goni et al., 1982
Mesoponera 36 Malaysia Goni et al., 1982
Mesoponera rubra 20 Sarawak Tjan et al., 1986 as ''Pachycondyla rubra''
Mesoponera rubra 38 Malaysia Imai et al., 1983 as ''Pachycondyla rubra''
Mesoponera rubra 40 Malaysia Imai et al., 1983 as ''Pachycondyla rubra''
Mesoponera rubra 10 20 Indonesia Imai et al., 1985; Mariano et al., 2015 as ''Pachycondyla rubra''



Platythyrea  (40 species, 6 fossil species)

Pachycondyla group
⊞(show genera)
Ponera group
⊞(show genera)

Harpegnathos  (13 species, 0 fossil species)

Hypoponera  (177 species, 1 fossil species)

Plectroctena group
⊞(show genera)
Odontomachus group
⊞(show taxa)

See Phylogeny of Ponerinae for details.


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

  • MESOPONERA [Ponerinae: Ponerini]
    • Mesoponera Emery, 1900d: 668 [as subgenus of Euponera]. Type-species: Ponera melanaria, by monotypy.
    • [Mesoponera also described as new by Emery, 1901a: 43. Type-species not Ponera caffraria, unjustified subsequent designation by Emery, 1901a: 43, repeated by Emery, 1911d: 81, Wheeler, W.M. 1911f: 167, Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 775, Donisthorpe, 1943g: 661, Wilson, 1958d: 349; Kempf, 1972a: 141, Bolton, 1973a: 338 and Taylor & Brown, D.R. 1985: 35.]
    • Mesoponera raised to genus: Bingham, 1903: 99; Wilson, 1958d: 349; Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 107.
    • Mesoponera subgenus of Euponera: Wheeler, W.M. 1910g: 135; Emery, 1911d: 80; Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 649; Borgmeier, 1923: 71.
    • Mesoponera senior synonym of Xiphopelta: Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 775; Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 107.
    • Mesoponera junior synonym of Pachycondyla: Snelling, R.R. 1981: 389; Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990: 11; Brown, in Bolton, 1994: 164.
    • Mesoponera revived from synonymy: Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 107.
  • XIPHOPELTA [junior synonym of Mesoponera]
    • Xiphopelta Forel, 1913a: 108 [as subgenus of Ponera]. Type-species: Ponera (Xiphopelta) arnoldi, by monotypy.
    • Xiphopelta subgenus of Euponera: Forel, 1917: 237; Bernard, 1953b: 191.
    • Xiphopelta junior synonym of Pachycondyla: Snelling, R.R. 1981: 389; Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990: 11; Brown, in Bolton, 1994: 164.
    • Xiphopelta junior synonym of Mesoponera: Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 775; Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 107.
    • [Hiphopelta: incorrect subsequent spelling by Forel, 1913a: 108.]


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014):


Medium (TL 5–9.5 mm) slender ants with the standard characters of Ponerini. Mandibles triangular, relatively long; mandibles crossed when closed in the M. melanaria group. Eyes small, placed anterior of head midline; absent or reduced to a small pigmented spot in a few species. Frontal lobes very small and closely approximated. Mesopleuron usually not divided by a transverse groove. Metanotal groove shallow to moderately deep (in Xiphopelta species). Propodeum narrowed dorsally. Propodeal spiracles small and round in most M. melanaria group species, but slit-like in the M. ingesta group. Metatibial spur formula (1s, 1p). Petiole squamiform. Gaster with only a weak girdling constriction between pre- and postsclerites of A4. Stridulitrum sometimes present on pretergite of A4. Head and body finely punctate, with sparse pilosity but a dense fine pubescence. Color variable. (Note: This description excludes M. subiridescens, which we place within Mesoponera only tentatively. M. subiridescens differs from the above description by its shining cuticle, relatively large eyes, mesopleuron divided by a transverse groove, deep metanotal groove, and long narrow toothless mandibles which have distinct basal grooves and basal margins that are not concealed by the clypeus when closed.)


Similar to worker, but winged and with the other differences typical for alate ponerine queens.


See descriptions in Arnold (1915) and Donisthorpe (1942).


Described by Wheeler & Wheeler (1971b).


  • Arnold, G. 1915. A monograph of the Formicidae of South Africa. Part I. Ponerinae, Dorylinae. Ann. S. Afr. Mus. 14: 1-159 (page 64, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Ashmead, W. H. 1905c. A skeleton of a new arrangement of the families, subfamilies, tribes and genera of the ants, or the superfamily Formicoidea. Can. Entomol. 37: 381-384 (page 382, Mesoponera in Pachycondylinae, Pachycondylini; Mesoponera as genus)
  • Bernard, F. 1953b [1952]. La réserve naturelle intégrale du Mt Nimba. XI. Hyménoptères Formicidae. Mém. Inst. Fr. Afr. Noire 19: 165-270 (page 190, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Bingham, C. T. 1903. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Hymenoptera, Vol. II. Ants and Cuckoo-wasps. London: Taylor and Francis, 506 pp. (page 99, Mesoponera as genus)
  • Bolton, B. 1994. Identification guide to the ant genera of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 222 pp. (page 164, Mesoponera as junior synonym of Pachycondyla )
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 167, Mesoponera as junior synonym of Pachycondyla [Type-species not Ponera caffraria, unjustified subsequent designation by Emery, 1901a:43, repeated by others])
  • Borgmeier, T. 1923. Catalogo systematico e synonymico das formigas do Brasil. 1 parte. Subfam. Dorylinae, Cerapachyinae, Ponerinae, Dolichoderinae. Arch. Mus. Nac. (Rio J.) 24: 33-103 (page 71, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1973b. A comparison of the Hylean and Congo-West African rain forest ant faunas. Pp. 161-185 in: Meggers, B. J., Ayensu, E. S., Duckworth, W. D. (eds.) Tropical forest ecosystems in Africa and South America: a comparative review. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, viii + 350 pp. (page 182, Mesoponera as junior synonym of Pachycondyla (provisional))
  • Cantone S. 2018. Winged Ants, The queen. Dichotomous key to genera of winged female ants in the World. The Wings of Ants: morphological and systematic relationships (self-published).
  • Chapman, J. W.; Capco, S. R. 1951. Check list of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Asia. Monogr. Inst. Sci. Technol. Manila 1: 1-327 (page 64, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Dlussky, G. M.; Fedoseeva, E. B. 1988. Origin and early stages of evolution in ants. Pp. 70-144 in: Ponomarenko, A. G. (ed.) Cretaceous biocenotic crisis and insect evolution. Moskva: Nauka, 232 pp. (page 78, Mesoponera as genus)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1943g. A list of the type-species of the genera and subgenera of the Formicidae. [part]. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 11(10): 617-688 (page 661, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Emery, C. 1900d. Formiche raccolte da Elio Modigliani in Sumatra, Engano e Mentawei. [part]. Ann. Mus. Civ. Stor. Nat. 40[=(2(20): 661-688. (page 668, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Emery, C. 1901b. Notes sur les sous-familles des Dorylines et Ponérines (Famille des Formicides). Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 45: 32-54 (page 43, Mesoponera also described as new; Type-species not Ponera caffraria, unjustified subsequent designation by Emery, 1901a: 43.] )
  • Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 80, Mesoponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini; Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Esteves, F.A., Fisher, B.L. 2021. Corrieopone nouragues gen. nov., sp. nov., a new Ponerinae from French Guiana (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). ZooKeys 1074, 83–173 (doi:10.3897/zookeys.1074.75551).
  • Fernandez, F., Guerrero, R.J., Sánchez-Restrepo, A.F. 2021. Sistemática y diversidad de las hormigas neotropicales. Revista Colombiana de Entomología 47, 1–20 (doi:10.25100/socolen.v47i1.11082).
  • Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 237, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Gallardo, A. 1918c. Las hormigas de la República Argentina. Subfamilia Ponerinas. An. Mus. Nac. Hist. Nat. B. Aires 30: 1-112 (page 65, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Hölldobler, B.; Wilson, E. O. 1990. The ants. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, xii + 732 pp. (page 11, Mesoponera as junior synonym of Pachycondyla)
  • Kempf, W. W. 1972b. Catálogo abreviado das formigas da regia~o Neotropical. Stud. Entomol. 15: 3-344 (page 141, Mesoponera as genus)
  • Schmidt, C.A. & Shattuck, S.O. 2014. The higher classification of the ant subfamily Ponerinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with a review of ponerine ecology and behavior. Zootaxa 3817, 1–242 (doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3817.1.1).
  • Snelling, R. R. 1981. Systematics of social Hymenoptera. Pp. 369-453 in: Hermann, H. R. (ed.) Social insects. Volume 2. New York: Academic Press, xiii + 491 pp. (page 389, Mesoponera as junior synonym of Pachycondyla)
  • Taylor, R. W.; Brown, D. R. 1985. Formicoidea. Zool. Cat. Aust. 2:1- 149: 1-149, 30 (page 34, Mesoponera as genus)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 135, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1922i. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. VII. Keys to the genera and subgenera of ants. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 45: 631-710 (page 649, 775, Mesoponera as subgenus of Euponera; Mesoponera senior synonym of Xiphopelta)
  • Wilson, E. O. 1958g. Studies on the ant fauna of Melanesia III. Rhytidoponera in western Melanesia and the Moluccas. IV. The tribe Ponerini. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 119: 303-371 (page 349, Mesoponera as genus)