Temporal range: 55–0 Ma Early Eocene – Recent
|Pachycondyla punctata, now Platythyrea punctata|
6 fossil species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)
A moderately large (38 described extant species) pantropical genus and is the only member of Platythyreini. Platythyrea workers are notable for their rapid movement, arboreal habits and occurrence of gamergates in many species. One of three Kenyan species, Platythyrea modesta, is comparatively well-studied for an African ant species. It lives in polygynous colonies with approximately 50 workers and the nests are placed in pre-existing cavities in the bark or in dead branches of trees, or in termitaries of Cubitermes at the base of trees (Djieto-Lordon et al., 2001). This species is predaceous, generally hunting solitarily for insects like termites or grasshoppers and single workers are able to catch considerably large prey (Djieto-Lordon et al., 2001). Other species of Platythyrea nest in hollow twigs, rotten wood, in termitaries, or in the ground (Brown, 1975).
Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Platythyrea workers are distinctive and not easily confused with those of other genera, though the genus lacks unequivocal autapomorphies. Diagnostic characters of Platythyrea workers and queens include (in combination) pruinose sculpturing, broad insertion of the clypeus between the frontal lobes and the consequently widely spaced frontal lobes and antennal insertions, laterally opening metapleural gland orifice, metatibiae with two pectinate spurs, toothed tarsal claws, and projection of the helcium from near midheight on the anterior face of A3. Pruinose sculpturing is rare within Ponerini (only present in some Leptogenys and in Belonopelta, both of which lack the high helcium and broad clypeal insertion of Platythyrea), but is also shared with the proceratiine genus Probolomyrmex. Probolomyrmex differs from Platythyrea, however, in numerous characters, most obviously in its lack of frontal lobes and eyes, its single metatibial spur, its simple tarsal claws, and its lack of a stridulitrum on the pretergite of A4. In most Ponerini the clypeus is only narrowly inserted between the frontal lobes, but Thaumatomyrmex has a broad clypeal insertion (even broader than in Platythyrea). Thaumatomyrmex otherwise differs dramatically from Platythyrea, and they are unlikely to be confused. A small number of genera in Ponerini have a relatively high helcium as in Platythyrea, but these genera all lack the broad clypeal insertion and pruinose sculpturing of Platythyrea. Finally, the Australian Platythyrea dentinodis species group (formerly Eubothroponera) have a relatively low helcium, as in most Ponerini, and lack the fine pruinose sculpturing of most Platythyrea, but can be distinguished from Ponerini by their broad clypeal insertion and presence of two pectinate metatibial spurs.
|See images of species within this genus|
Keys including this Genus
- Key to African and Malagasy Genera of Ponerinae
- Key to Australian Genera of Ponerinae
- Key to Eurasian and Australian Genera of Ponerinae
- Key to Neotropical Ponerinae genera
- Key to New World Genera of Ponerinae
- Key to North American Genera of Ponerinae (Fisher and Cover)
- Key to North American Genera of Ponerinae (Schmidt and Shattuck)
- Key to Vietnamese Ponerinae Genera
Keys to Species in this Genus
- Key to Australian Platythyrea Species
- Key to Platythyrea of the southwestern Australian Botanical Province
- Key to Afrotropical Platythyrea workers
- Key to New World Platythyrea
- Key to Platythyrea of southeast Asia
Platythyrea is pantropical, with some species also occurring in subtropical regions of the New World, Africa, Asia, and Australia (Brown, 1975; Bolton et al., 2006).
Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps
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|
Fossils are known from: Baltic amber (Bartonian, Middle to Late Eocene), Dominican amber, Dominican Republic (Burdigalian, Early Miocene), Oise amber, France (Ypresian, Early Eocene), Zhangpu amber, Zhangpu County, Fujian Province, China (Miocene) (an unidentified species, Wang et al., 2021).
Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Platythyrea is an ecologically and behaviorally interesting genus. Unusually among ponerines, many Platythyrea species are arboreal, nesting in hollow branches or other preformed cavities in live or fallen trees, and foraging on tree trunks or other vegetation (Brown, 1975; Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001b; Yéo et al., 2006; Molet & Peeters, 2006). Some large African species (e.g., Platythyrea lamellosa) are terrestrial and nest at the base of termitaria or under rocks (Arnold, 1915; Brown, 1975). Platythyrea colonies are of the typical size for ponerines, with on average usually a few hundred workers or fewer (Platythyrea conradti: 100 to 500 workers; Lévieux, 1976; Molet & Peeters, 2006; Yéo et al., 2006; Platythyrea lamellose: 115 workers; Villet et al., 1990b; Platythyrea modesta: up to 50 workers; Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001b; Platythyrea parallela: 50 workers; Wilson, 1959b; Platythyrea punctata: 23-51 workers; Hartmann et al., 2005b; Platythyrea quadridenta: 19 workers; Ito, 1995; Platythyrea schultzei: 21 workers; Villet, 1991b; Platythyrea tricuspidata: 21 workers; Ito, 1995).
Platythyrea workers are very fast runners, and their speed combined with their potent venomous stings enable them to rapidly catch and subdue a wide range of prey (Brown, 1975; Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001a, 2001b). Some Platythyrea species are generalist predators (e.g., P. conradti: Yéo et al., 2006; Molet & Peeters, 2006; Platythyrea lamellose: Villet, 1990c; P. modesta: Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001a, 2001b), but many reportedly specialize on termites (e.g., Arnold, 1915; Brown, 1975) and at least one species (Platythyrea arnoldi) is apparently a specialist on adult beetles (Arnold, 1915). In an unusual behavior, P. conradti workers collect nectar onto part of their body surface for transport to the nest; the liquid is retained via surface tension (Déjean & Suzzoni, 1997). Lévieux (1983) lists an unidentified Platythyrea species as eating seeds, though this has not been confirmed (Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990). Platythyrea workers typically forage individually (e.g., Villet, 1990c), but Djiéto-Lordon et al. (2001b) observed nestmate recruitment in P. modesta to aid in retrieval of large prey. Interestingly, workers of this species sometimes carry larvae directly to their prey, rather than bringing the prey back to their nest; this behavior is otherwise unknown within the Ponerinae. P. modesta conducts frequent emigrations to new nest sites, with recruitment occurring via use of chemical trails (Djiéto-Lordon et al., 2001b). The use of chemical trails by other Platythyrea species has not been reported.
Platythyrea has perhaps the highest diversity of reproductive strategies known for any ponerine genus (Villet, 1992b; Molet & Peeters, 2006). Nearly all examined Platythyrea species have gamergates, with the only exception being P. conradti, which is also the only Platythyrea species known to have ergatoid queens (Molet & Peeters, 2006). In P. conradti, queens and workers aggressively interact to form a dominance hierarchy, but high-ranking workers do not reproduce unless the queen dies. Among those species known to have gamergates, some also have alate queens (Platythyrea quadridenta, Platythyrea tricuspidata and Platythyrea arnoldi; Villet, 1993; Ito, 1995), but some have gamergates only ([[Platythyrea lamellosa, Platythyrea schultzei, and Platythyrea cf. cribrinodis; Peeters, 1987; Villet et al., 1990b; Villet, 1991b, 1991c). In addition, the reproductive strategy of Platythyrea punctata is perhaps the most variable known for any ponerine species (see below). Villet (1990c, 1991b, 1992b) examined the division of labor in colonies of P. cf. cribrinodis, P. lamellosa, and P. schultzei and found typical age-related polyethism in all species, with unmated workers of P. cf. cribrinodis laying only inviable haploid eggs.
Platythyrea punctata is a fascinating species from the standpoint of social and reproductive behavior, as it variously has alate queens, parthenogenetic apterous queens, gamergates, and parthenogenetic workers (Schilder et al., 1999a, 1999b; Hartmann et al., 2005b). In many populations of this species, reproduction occurs via thelytokous parthenogenesis (Heinze & Hölldobler, 1995), which is not known to occur in any other ponerine. Workers in parthenogenetic colonies of P. punctata aggressively compete and form dominance hierarchies, with reproduction restricted to only a small number of high-ranking individuals and with workers attacking “surplus reproductives”, as communicated by their cuticular hydrocarbon profiles (Heinze & Hölldobler, 1995; Hartmann et al., 2005a). The presence of worker policing in such colonies is surprising, since they are virtually clonal (Schilder et al., 1999b) and therefore lack any genetic conflict among colony members (Hartmann et al., 2003). The reason for the reproductive conflict is that a reduced number of reproductives leads to increased colony productivity (Hartmann et al., 2003), favoring the maintenance of social control over reproduction.
The chemical ecology of Platythyrea has not been extensively studied, but Morgan et al. (2003) found that P. punctata lacks a Dufour’s gland and lacks volatile substances in its venom gland secretions.
Yéo et al. (2006) discovered an interesting commensal association between P. conradti and the tiny myrmicine Strumigenys maynei, which nest together in the same branches. Strumigenys colonies were found in association with 75% of the examined Platythyrea nests. The Strumigenys workers apparently feed on refuse in the Platythyrea nest, and are moved without injury by Platythyrea workers if they attempt to feed on fresh prey brought into the nest.
Boudinot et al. (2016) described the presence of ergatoid male in P. sagei, the first known ergatoid male in the genus Platythyrea. Observations have suggested that these males contribute to colony labor.
Life History Traits
- Queen type: winged or dealate; ergatoid; gamergate (Peeters, 1997) (dealate queens and gamergates can occur in a single species)
- Mean colony size: 19-500 (Greer et al., 2021)
- Compound colony type: not parasitic (Greer et al., 2021)
- Nest site: hypogaeic; arboreal (Greer et al., 2021)
- Diet class: predator (Greer et al., 2021)
- Foraging stratum: subterranean/leaf litter; arboreal (Greer et al., 2021)
- Foraging behaviour: solitary (Greer et al., 2021)
- Explore: Show all Worker Morphology data or Search these data. See also a list of all data tables or learn how data is managed.
• Antennal segment count: 12 • Antennal club: absent, gradual • Palp formula: 6,4; 4,4; 4,3; 3,3; 3,2 • Total dental count: 1-15 • Spur formula: 2 pectinate, 2 pectinate; 2 (1 barbulate, 1 pectinate), 2 (1 barbulate, 1 pectinate) • Eyes: >100 ommatidia • Pronotal Spines: absent • Mesonotal Spines: absent • Propodeal Spines: absent; dentiform • Petiolar Spines: absent; dentiform • Caste: none or weak • Sting: present • Metaplural Gland: present • Cocoon: present
- Explore: Show all Male Morphology data or Search these data. See also a list of all data tables or learn how data is managed.
• Antennal segment count 13 • Antennal club 0 • Palp formula 6,4; 5,3; 4,3 • Total dental count 1-15 • Spur formula 2 pectinate, 2 pectinate; 2 (1 barbulate, 1 pectinate), 2 pectinate
All Karyotype Records for Genus
- Explore: Show all Karyotype data or Search these data. See also a list of all data tables or learn how data is managed.
|Platythyrea pilosula||20||40||French Guiana||Mariano et al., 2015|
|Platythyrea quadridenta||9||18||Malaysia||Imai et al., 1983; Mariano et al., 2015|
|Platythyrea sinuata||44||24M+20A||Brazil||Silva-Rocha et al., 2017|
|Platythyrea tricuspidata||92||Malaysia||Imai et al., 1990|
|Platythyrea tricuspidata||93||Malaysia||Imai et al., 1990|
|Platythyrea tricuspidata||96||Malaysia||Imai et al., 1983||Corrected for 2n=92-94 in Imai 1990|
|Platythyrea tricuspidata||47||94||Malaysia||Imai et al., 1992; Mariano et al., 2015|
See Phylogeny of Ponerinae for details.
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.
- PLATYTHYREA [Ponerinae: Platythyreini]
- Platythyrea Roger, 1863a: 172. Type-species: Pachycondyla punctata, by subsequent designation of Bingham, 1903: 73.
- Platythyrea senior synonym of Eubothroponera: Brown, 1975: 6.
- EUBOTHROPONERA [junior synonym of Platythyrea]
- Eubothroponera Clark, 1930c: 8. Type-species: Eubothroponera dentinodis, by original designation.
- Eubothroponera junior synonym of Platythyrea: Brown, 1975: 6.
Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Small to very large (TL 4–20 mm; Brown, 1975) ants with the standard characters of Platythyreini. Mandibles triangular, edentate or with multiple distinct teeth on the masticatory margin, and often with a basal groove. Clypeus with a flat or convex anterior margin, and a broad posterior insertion between the frontal lobes. Frontal lobes moderately large and widely separated. Eyes large to moderate in size, located anterior to head midline. Metanotal groove usually obsolete, rarely present and shallowly impressed (e.g., P. lamellosa). Propodeum broad dorsally, the posterior margins distinct and usually with a short blunt tooth at each posterodorsal corner. Propodeal spiracle usually round, rarely slit-shaped (e.g., P. lamellosa). Metapleural gland orifice opening laterally, near the posteroventral corner of the propodeum, sometimes with a shallow lateral longitudinal groove. Metatibial spur formula (1p, 1p). Tarsal claws usually armed with a single preapical tooth. Arolia prominent and bright white. Petiole nodiform, the node usually much longer than wide, with parallel sides and a distinct dorsal face, the posterodorsal margin often bi- or tridentate. Helcium usually projects from near midheight on the anterior face of A3 (projects from lower down in the P. dentinodis group). Gaster with a moderate girdling constriction between pre- and postsclerites of A4. Stridulitrum present on pretergite of A4. Head and body usually uniformly pruinose (having a frosted appearance due to extremely dense fine punctations combined with a dense short pubescence), usually also with scattered foveolations, and usually with little to no upright pilosity. Members of the P. dentinodis group lack the pruinose condition and have denser upright pilosity. Color variable, yellowish brown to black. See descriptions by Brown (1975) and Bolton (2003) for further details of worker structure in Platythyrea.
Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Very similar to conspecific workers but usually winged, with the corresponding modifications of the thoracic sclerites and usually with ocelli (though they are sometimes absent, which is a unique condition among alate ant queens) (Brown, 1975). Queens are ergatoid in some species and are completely absent in others (reviewed by Molet & Peeters, 2006).
Yoshimura and Fisher (2007) Malagsy region - Males winged. Antennal scrobe distinct. Mandible large, stout, triangular, with many teeth on its masticatory margin, and masticatory margins completely overlap when mandibles are fully closed. Basal cavity of mandible invisible in full-face view. Notauli impressed on mesoscutum. Mesepimeron bearing distinct (epimeral) lobe posterodorsally, lobe covering mesothoracic spiracle and seeming to form isolated plate. Dorsolateral corner of petiole in anterior view lacking distinct projection. Dorsal margin of petiole, in anterior view, broadly or narrowly rounded. Apical margin of abdominal tergum VIII does not project strongly into sharp spine. Jugal lobe of hind wing may or may not be present. Middle and hind tibiae with two spurs. Claws simple, never multidentate or pectinate. Body surface sparsely punctate.
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- 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, Platythyrea in Pachycondylinae, Ectatommini)
- Barden, P. 2017. Fossil ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): ancient diversity and the rise of modern lineages. Myrmecological News 24: 1-30.
- Barden, P., Engel, M.S. 2020. Fossil social insects. Encyclopedia of Social Insects, Springer, Cham (doi:10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_45-1).
- 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 73, Type-species: Pachycondyla punctata, by subsequent designation)
- Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 172, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Playthyreini)
- Boudinot, B.E., Richter, A.K., Hammel, J.U., Szwedo, J., Bojarski, B., Perrichot, V. 2022. Genomic-phenomic reciprocal illumination: Desyopone hereon gen. et sp. nov., an exceptional Aneuretine-like fossil ant from Ethiopian amber (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae). Insects 13(9), 796 (doi:10.3390/insects13090796).
- Boudinot, B.E., Wachkoo, A.A., Bharti, H. 2016. The first ergatoid male of Platythyrea (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae), with contribution to colony labor suggested by observation and comparative morphology. Myrmecological News 22: 59-64.
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- Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 135, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
- Wheeler, W.M. 1915i. The ants of the Baltic Amber. Schriften der Physikalisch-Ökonomischen Gesellschaft zu Königsberg 55: 1-142. (page 36, Platythyrea in Ponerinae, Playthyreini)
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- Yéo, K., Molet, M. & Peeters, C. 2006. When David and Goliath share a home: Compound nesting of Pyramica and Platythyrea ants. Insectes. Sociaux 53: 435-438.