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Odontoponera transversa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Alliance: Odontomachus genus group
Genus: Odontoponera
Mayr, 1862
Type species
Ponera denticulata, now Odontoponera denticulata
4 species
1 fossil species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)


Odontoponera transversa


Odontoponera has two species and 2 subspecies restricted to Southeast Asia, where it is one of the most commonly observed ants. A colony occupies several distinct nests connected by underground tunnels with many entrances, a striking parallel to polydomy in the African Paltothyreus tarsatus.

Photo Gallery

  • Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia (photo by Steve Shattuck).


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Workers of Odontoponera are easily differentiated from other ponerines by their denticulate anterior clypeal margin, toothed pronotal margins, denticulate-emarginate petiolar scale and a small, ventrally-directed tooth at the apex of the hypopygium, all of which are autapomorphic within Ponerinae. The strong striate sculpturing of Odontoponera is also characteristic, though Diacamma, Ectomomyrmex and Paltothyreus also have striate sculpturing (these genera lack the other diagnostic characters of Odontoponera).

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Keys including this Genus



Odontoponera is restricted to Southeast Asia, where its range stretches from India to the Philippines and from southern China to the Lesser Sunda Islands of southern Indonesia (Creighton, 1929).

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 0 0 4 0 0 0 2 1
Total Species 2841 1736 3045 932 835 4379 1741 2862


Fossils are known from Zhangpu amber, Zhangpu County, Fujian Province, China (Miocene).


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Virtually nothing is known about the social behavior of Odontoponera, but the genus has received some attention from ecologists due to its abundance. For example, Wheeler & Chapman (1925) noted the abundance of Odontoponera at a site in the Philippines, and it was common in a Bornean rainforest (Berghoff et al., 2003), was one of the dominant ants in a study in Vietnam (Eguchi et al., 2004), was the dominant ground-nesting ant in a study in Thailand (Sitthicharoenchai & Chantarasawat, 2006), was one of the most abundant ants in a forest in southern China (Zhou et al., 2007), and one of us (CAS) frequently observed it in a rainforest in peninsular Malaysia. Levy (1996) reported a density of 3,000 nest entrances per hectare in a Bornean rainforest. Colonies have over 100 workers, and the polydomous subterranean nests are linked by interconnecting tunnels (Berghoff et al., 2003).

Odontoponera workers are predominantly epigeic foragers and are generalist predators and scavengers (Levy, 1996; Hashimoto et al., 1997; Berghoff et al., 2003; Pfeiffer et al., 2006; Zhou et al., 2007). Wheeler & Chapman (1925) noted that, in the Philippines, Odontoponera "is especially fond of termites and is often seen raiding their colonies." Remarkably, Berghoff et al. (2003) observed that Odontoponera workers are effective at guarding their nest entrances from marauding Dorylus army ants and that the Odontoponera workers actually prey on the Dorylus. Ants and termites made up nearly half of the food items collected by Odontoponera transversa workers in the study by Levy (1996). Workers only forage within about a meter from the nest entrances (Eguchi et al., 2004).

Morgan et al. (1999, 2003) studied the mandibular gland and abdominal gland secretions of Odontoponera, and Leluk et al. (1989) examined the protein composition of Odontoponera venom.



Worker Morphology

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  • Antennal segment count: 12
  • Antennal club: absent-gradual
  • Palp formula: 4,4
  • Total dental count: 5-6
  • Spur formula: 2 (1 simple, 1 pectinate), 2 (1 simple, 1 pectinate)
  • Sting: present

Male Morphology

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 • Antennal segment count 13 • Antennal club 0 • Palp formula 6,4 • Total dental count 0 • Spur formula 2 (1 simple-barbulate, 1 barbulate-pectinate), 2 (1 simple-barbulate, 1 pectinate)


All Karyotype Records for Genus

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Taxon Haploid Diploid Karyotype Locality Source Notes
Odontoponera transversa 21 42 Indonesia Imai et al., 1985; Mariano et al., 2015
Odontoponera transversa 23 46 14M+32A India Imai et al., 1984; Mariano et al., 2015 the karyotype has been published only for the Indian poplations



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.

  • ODONTOPONERA [Ponerinae: Ponerini]
    • Odontoponera Mayr, 1862: 717. Type-species: Ponera denticulata (junior synonym of Ponera transversa), by monotypy.

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


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014):


Medium-sized (TL 9–12 mm; Bingham, 1903) ants with the standard characters of Ponerini. Mandibles short, triangular and massive, with a basal groove. Clypeus with a denticulate anterior margin. Eyes fairly small, placed anterior of head midline, with a subtle preocular carina (often difficult to distinguish from the striate sculpturing of the head). Pronotum with a short spine at each anterodorsal corner. Metanotal groove very shallowly impressed or reduced to a simple suture. Propodeum narrowed dorsally, the posterior margins with shallow denticulate ridges. Propodeal spiracle ovoid. Metatibial spur formula (1s, 1p). Petiole squamiform, with a sharp denticulate and emarginate dorsal margin. Gaster with only a weak girdling constriction between pre- and postsclerites of A4. Stridulitrum present on pretergite of A4. Head and mesosoma deeply striate, the gaster only lightly punctate. Head and body with scattered pilosity and only light pubescence. Color ferrugineous to black.


Similar to worker but larger (TL 11–13 mm; Bingham, 1903) and winged.


See description in Smith (1858).


Described by Wheeler & Wheeler (1952).