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Paraponera clavata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Paraponerinae
Emery, 1901
1 genera
1 species
Evolutionary Placement



Amblyoponinae - see relationships



Ponerinae - see relationships



Dorylinae - see relationships


Dolichoderinae - see relationships

Myrmeciinae - see relationships within Myrmecia

Pseudomyrmecinae - see relationships

Formicinae - see relationships

Myrmicinae - see relationships



See Phylogeny of Formicidae for details.

One species of the Paraponerinae is extant, Paraponera clavata. This species dwells in rainforests and is known from Honduras through Central America into tropical South America.


Boudinot (2015) - Male The hatchet-shaped petiole (Fig. 4D) and the morphology of abdominal sternum IX are both globally unique among the Formicidae. The ninth abdominal sternum of Paraponera is strongly produced posteriorly as an apically bidentate linear process. These characters may be supplemented by the following combination: mandibles triangular, unidentate; clypeus well-developed, antennal toruli situated distant from anterior clypeal margin; antenna 13-merous; meso- and metatibiae with two ventroapical spurs each; eight closed cells present on forewing; jugal lobe present; petiolar tergum and sternum distinct; abdominal segment IV pre- and postsclerites separated by cinctus; abdominal tergum IV not vaulted; abdominal tergum VIII not spiniform.

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Keys including this Subfamily


Distribution and Species Richness based on AntMaps


Extant Taxa

Tribes Valid Genera % World Genera Invalid Genera Valid Species/Subsp. % World Species Invalid Species/Subsp.
0 1 0.2% 0 1 0.01% 2

Fossil Taxa

Fossil Genera % World Fossil Genera Valid Fossil Species/Subsp. % World Fossil Species/Subsp.
0 0% 1 0.12%

Fossils known from: Dominican amber, Dominican Republic (Burdigalian, Early Miocene).

List of Tribes and Genera


No tribes within subfamily.

Extant Genera


Fossil Genera

No fossil genera within subfamily.


Karyotype Data

Explore Karyotype Data: All, Drilldown
Click here to show/hide karyotype count data.

Known Haploid Counts: No results.

Haploid Count Details: No results.

Known Diploid Counts: No results.

Diploid Count Details: No results.


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

  • PARAPONERINAE [subfamily of Formicidae]
    • Paraponerii Emery, 1901a: 36. Type-genus: Paraponera Smith, F. 1858b: 100.

Taxonomic History

  • Paraponerinae as tribe of Ponerinae: Emery, 1901a: 36 [Paraponerii].
  • Paraponerinae as junior synonym of Ectatommini: Brown, 1958g: 176; Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990: 10; Bolton, 1994: 164.
  • Paraponerinae as tribe of Ectatommini: Lattke, 1994: 111 [Paraponerini].
  • Paraponerinae as tribe of Ponerinae: Emery, 1901a: 36 [Paraponerii]; Emery, 1911d: 27 [Paraponerini]; Forel, 1917: 236; Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 637; Jaffe, 1993: 7; Lattke, 1994: 111; Bolton, 1995b: 14.
  • Paraponerinae as poneromorph subfamily of Formicidae: Bolton, 2003: 47, 178.
  • Paraponerinae as poneroid subfamily of Formicidae: Ouellette, et al. 2006: 365; Brady, et al. 2006: 18173; Moreau, et al. 2006: 102; Ward, 2007a: 555; Boudinot, 2015: 47.

Taxonomic References

Fernandes, de Souza & Baccaro, in Delabie, et al. 2015: 43 (phylogeny, taxonomy)

Taxonomic Notes

Bolton 2003:

The poneromorph subfamilies

Subfamilies Amblyoponinae, Ectatomminae, Heteroponerinae, Paraponerinae, Ponerinae, Proceratiinae.

Diagnosis Orifice of metapleural gland never concealed by a dorsally located cuticular flange or flap. Propodeal lobes present. Waist of one segment (petiole) that is separated posteriorly from abdominal segment III (first gastral) at least by a constriction (note 1). Helcium sternite retracted, overlapped by the tergite (note 2) (also in male). Abdominal segments III and IV with tergosternal fusion (also in male) (note 3). Abdominal segment IV with presclerites and usually a girdling constriction present between the presclerites and postsclerites (note 4) (also in male). Spiracles of abdominal segments V - VII concealed by posterior margins of preceding tergites. Sting present, usually strongly developed. [Synopsis, p. 153.]

Notes (1) In almost all poneromorphs abdominal segment III varies from slightly larger than IV to slightly smaller than IV. However, in Paraponerini and a few species of Proceratiini segment III is markedly reduced with respect to IV and may be termed sub-postpetiolate. See also notes under myrmicomorphs. (2) Helcium sternite is convex and not overlapped by the tergite only in Discothyrea (Proceratiini). In this respect Discothyrea resembles the dorylomorphs but otherwise their morphologies are very different; the similarity of the helcium is presumed to be by convergence. (3) For distribution of tergosternal fusion of abdominal segment III throughout the family see under dorylomorphs (note 3). Of all the poneromorphs only the monotypic Malagasy amblyoponine genus Adetomyrma lacks tergosternal fusion on abdominal segments III and IV. Whether this is plesiomorphic or a reversal from a previously fused state remains under debate (see discussion in Ward, 1994). It is by no means definite that tergosternal fusion of abdominal segment IV represents a poneromorph synapomorphy. Outside the poneromorphs this fusion is restricted to Tatuidris (Agroecomyrmecini) and Ankylomyrma (Ankylomyrmini). (4) The girdling constriction is usually apparent but in the amblyoponine Adetomyrma sharply differentiated presclerites are absent on abdominal segment IV. In Ponerini the character is variously reduced or lost in such genera as Asphinctopone and Phrynoponera, and in some individual species or species groups within larger genera such as Leptogenys, Anochetus, Odontomachus, Pachycondyla, and also in Simopelta.

Comments (i) The traditional large subfamily Ponerinae is abandoned here and its former components are regrouped as six independent subfamilies. This radical reassessment is because it has become apparent in recent years that the old and long-established concept of a single "subfamily Ponerinae" is no longer defensible. Regarding all the poneromorphs as a single subfamily has probably held back the generation of an accurate phylogeny in this part of Formicidae because "Ponerinae" as a terminal taxon could not be defined in a precise manner. (ii) Despite the lack of an unequivocal synapomorphy the six subfamilies together are treated here under the unofficial group-name poneromorph, to distinguish them from other obvious and often better delimited assemblages of subfamilies, such as the dorylomorphs and formicomorphs. Subfamily Ponerinae is now restricted to tribes Ponerini + Platythyreini + Thaumatomyrmecini.


Paraponera clavata. Image by Alex Wild.

Diagnosis With characters of poneromorph subfamilies. Clypeus broadly inserted between frontal lobes. Torulus not completely fused to frontal lobe. Bipartite antennal scrobes present, with dorsal portion above eye and ventral portion below it. Promesonotal suture present but fused and immobile, the pronotum and mesonotum not capable of movement relative to each other. Metapleural gland orifice simple and directed laterally. Metacoxal cavities closed, with a suture present in the annulus. Metabasitarsal sulcus present (note 1). Mesotibia and metatibia each with 2 spurs. Empodium present on pretarsus. Pretarsal claws each with a preapical tooth. Abdominal segment III distinctly reduced compared to IV (note 2). Petiole with a long anterior peduncle (also in male); with complete tergosternal fusion and without laterotergites. Helcium projects from about the midheight of the anterior face of abdominal segment III; no high vertical anterior face to abdominal segment III above the helcium. Stridulitrum present on pretergite of abdominal segment IV. Hypopygium armed along lateral margin with a row of spines (note 3). Male hypopygium biaculeate. Jugal lobe present on hindwing of alates. Male mandible lobate, edentate. Palp formula 5,3. Antenna with 12 segments (13 in male). [Synopsis, p. 178.]

Notes (1) A metabasitarsal sulcus also occurs in ants of the myrmeciomorph subfamilies, presumably independently evolved. (2) See under myrmicomorphs (note 7) (3) The margin of the hypopygium also bears teeth or spiniform setae in the Amblyopone reclinata species group (Amblyoponini), in Dinoponera species (Ponerini) and in Pachycondyla impressa and Pachycondyla berthoudi (=Bothroponera berthoudi) (Ponerini); each of these is presumed to be independently derived. Numerous dorylomorphs have the pygidium, but not the hypopygium, armed with teeth or spines.

Comments (i) This small subfamily contains just one extant species and one very closely related fossil form from the Miocene Dominican amber. It shows affinities with Ectatomminae and Heteroponerinae but cannot be placed with confidence in either taxon; conversely, no satisfactory unique diagnosis can be formulated for the three taxa together, or for any two of the three. (ii) The strange position of Paraponera in the cladograms that are Figs 18 and 20 in Grimaldi, Agosti & Carpenter (1997) are probably due to the miscoding of several characters in the data matrix.


  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and classification of Formicidae. Mem. Amer. Entomol. Inst. 71:1-370.
  • Boudinot, B.E. 2015. Contributions to the knowledge of Formicidae (Hymenoptera, Aculeata): a new diagnosis of the family, the first global male-based key to subfamilies, and a treatment of early branching lineages. European Journal of Taxonomy. 120:1-62. (