Ponera selenophora

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Ponera selenophora
Ponera selenophora
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Ponera
Species: P. selenophora
Binomial name
Ponera selenophora
Emery, 1900

Ponera selenophora side view

Ponera selenophora top view

Specimen labels

A rainforest species that has most commonly been found in leaf litter.


Taylor (1967) - Apparently widespread in lowland forested areas. Not referable to any species group recognized here, but close to Ponera alpha. The following characters are diagnostic: size moderately large (head width 0.59-0.65 mm). Head broad (cephalic index 88-92), with a more or less distinct median clypeal tooth and small eyes (2-3 indistinct facets); scapes exceeding median occipital border by up to 0.5 X their maximum thickness, antennal club not segmentally differentiated. Mesometanotal suture weakly incised, absent in some specimens. Propodeal and petiolar node structure much as in alpha, the node narrower (petiolar node index 85-89), and the subpetiolar process larger.

P. selenophora is essentially a smaller version of P. alpha, with proportionately shorter scapes, and a narrower petiolar node. In selenophora the petiolar node is of almost exactly the same general (primitive?) plan as that of alpha, with distinct anterolateral and posterodorsal faces, separated by a curving angulate border.

Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 1.549999952° to -24.03333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia.
Indo-Australian Region: Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea.

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.


It is probably significant that all records of selenophora are from low elevations. Wilson took it at the Brown River and Karema sites in primary rain forest. I did not encounter selenophora during almost 5 weeks collecting in New Guinea, but all but a few days were spent at much greater elevations. Considering known facts regarding the zoogeography of Pacific ants, selenophora will probably be more widespread in E. Melanesia. (Taylor 1967)

Explore-icon.png Explore Overview of Ponera biology 
The general biology of species in the genus was summarized by Taylor (1967): Ponera are small ants that nest in rotting logs in forested areas or under stones in nonforested situations. In the tropical areas specimens are rarely encountered away from rain forest. In temperate areas, however, species may occur in relatively lightly forested areas. This appears to be the case with Ponera japonica, Ponera pennsylvanica and especially with Ponera coarctata. The Australian Ponera leae is essentially limited to rain forest in the northern parts of its range, but further south it may be found in dry, lightly forested areas.

Foraging is probably cryptobiotic, though some New Guinea species have been taken straying on the ground surface. Little information is available concerning feeding. However, most species are probably insectivorous. I have conducted feeding experiments with some of the New Guinea and Samoan species, including Ponera xenagos, Ponera elegantula, Ponera tenuis, Ponera incerta and Ponera woodwardi. These were unsuccessful with the larger species, except elegantula, which accepted moderately large (8-12 mm) campodeid and japygid Diplura. Tenuis and incerta accepted smaller (4-6 mm) campodeids, isotomid and sminthurid Collembola, and small newly hatched spiders (2 mm long). Negative feeding response was obtained with eggs and larvae of various ants, small crushed insects of various orders, and small myriapods. Stray workers were never observed carrying prey, and distinct middens of insect or other remains were not located near nests.

Colonies usually contain about 30 workers. Larvae and pupae are not segregated in most cases, but occasionally aggregations of pupae were observed. These may have included the total brood of the colonies involved. Larvae are attached to the floor or walls of the nest galleries by the glutinous abdominal tubercles described above, and the ants move them high up on the walls or ceilings of artificial nests, if they are flooded. Details of nuptial behavior of pennsylvanica were given by Wheeler (1900), and Haskins & Enzmann (1938). The flights appear to be of a pattern typical for ants, with the alates meeting in the air and mating there or on the ground. Colony foundation is non-claustral and independent in pennsylvanica (Kannowski 1959); judging from my observations this is typical for the genus. ‎


Queen, male and immature stages unknown.

Images from AntWeb

Ponera selenophora casent0172428 head 1.jpgPonera selenophora casent0172428 profile 1.jpgPonera selenophora casent0172428 dorsal 1.jpgPonera selenophora casent0172428 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0172428. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by ANIC, Canberra, Australia.


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

  • selenophora. Ponera selenophora Emery, 1900c: 317, pl. 8, figs. 4-6 (w.) NEW GUINEA. Combination in Selenopone: Wheeler, W.M. 1933g: 21; in Ponera: Wilson, 1957b: 382. See also: Taylor, 1967a: 41.

Type Material

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



Wilson 1957 fig. 3

Wilson (1957) HW 0.59-0.63 mm, IlL 0.66-0.69 mm, SL 0.52 mm, cr 88-92, SI 82-89, PW 0.46-0.49 mm, dorsal petiolar width 0.40-0.42 mm. Mandibles with three relatively large, well-developed teeth occupying the apical half of the masticatory border; the basal half occupied by two smaller teeth, one located midway behveen the basalmost of the apical teeth and the basal angle, and the other on the basal angle. In addition, there are several irregular denticles in the interdentary spaces of the basal half of the border. Eyes minute, consisting of two or three small, ill-defined ommatidia, located approximately 0.8 the distance from the lateral occipital border to the midpoint of the anterior genal border. The antenna lacks a well-defined club, the funicular segments merely increasing gradually in length and width from the fourth outward. Posterolateral margins of propodeum (line of juncture of posterior and lateral faces) well marked, seen from directly above forming an angle of about 80°. Posterior border of petiole when viewed from directly above distinctly concave. Subpetiolar process well developed, approximately right-angular.

Mandibles and most of clypeus smooth and shining. Entire rest of head covered by contiguous punctures about 0.01 mm or slightly less in diameter, completely opaque. Entire dorsum of alitrunk covered by punctures about 0.006 mm in diameter, separated by spaces of about the same width as the diameter of the punctures, the surface feebly shining. Lateral thoracic surface covered by punctures of variable size, most with diameter under 0.01 mm, the majority contiguous; the surface subopaque. The lateral and posterior propodeal faces bear only a few peripherally distributed punctures and are mostly smooth and shining. Petiolar node with sparse scattered punctures, its surface entirely smooth and shining.

Short, erect hairs present on mandibles, clypeus, frontal lobe area, entire dorsal alitruncal surface, posterolateral propodeal margins, dorsal petiola,r surface, and entire surfaces of first two gastric segments. Apical gastric segments covered by more abundant, much longer hairs. Pubescence almost everywhere abundant, predominantly oblique to appressed.

Entire body jet black, except mandibles and apical gastric segments, which are brownish yellow. Appendages variably brownish yellow.

Taylor 1967 figs. 23-26

Taylor (1967) - My present concept of P. selenophora may be too extensive. A complex of 2 or 3 closely related species may be represented in the material studied here. The only known New Guinean specimens, apart from the types, are those used by Wilson; I have not seen them all, however, I have seen 2 workers (one an extreme callow) from Karema, Brown River, SE New Guinea, and single workers from the lower Busu River, NE New Guinea, and Skull Creek, N. Queensland, Australia. The Karema specimens were compared with Emery's syntypes of selenophora by Wilson in 1955.

These specimens all seem referable to a single species, although they vary in the development of the mesometanotal suture, and intensity of the sculpturation, particularly on the mesosomal dorsum. The 3 collection localities are widely separated, but it seems that a single, variable species is represented here. In any case it would be presumptuous to name these forms as distinct species at present ; future collecting in lowland forests III New Guinea and Cape York should clarify their true relationships.

The following notes and qualifications are additional to those of Wilson (1957).

1. Dimensions for the New Guinea material are: HL 0.65-0.69 mm; HW 0.59-0.63 mm; SL 0.52 mm; CI 88-92; SI 82- 89; PW 0.45-0.49 mm; PNL 0.23-0.24 mm; PH 0.45-0.46 mm; DPW 0.40-0.42 mm; PNI 85-89. The Skull Creek specimen is slightly larger, but does not differ significantly in the major indices: HL 0.70 mm; HW 0.65 mm; SL 0.53 mm; CI 92; SI 82; PW 0.49 mm; PNL 0.25 mm; PH 0.48 mm; DPW 0.42 mm; PNI 86.

2. Mandibular dentition variable. In all specimens 3 large teeth occupy apical 1/2 of masticatory border, and these are followed by a series of large denticles. In the Karema callow the configuration of the denticles is similar to the syntype described by Wilson: "basal half (of border) occupied by two smaller teeth, one located midway between the basalmost of the apical teeth and the basal angle. In addition there are several irregular denticles in the inter-dentary spaces of the basal half of the border." This general plan is present in the other Karema specimen, but the posterior tooth/denticle series is much less irregular — it consists of 5 large denticles. The Busu specimen agrees with this last Karema one, and the Skull Creek individual, which has very worn mandibles with only traces of the denticles remaining, seems also to comply.

3. The clypeus of the Karema specimens bears a small (0.02 mm high) but distinct conical median tooth, the Skull Creek example has a short longitudinal carina in the middle of the clypeus; and the Busu River specimen has a slightly stronger carina, which almost traverses the clypeus.

4. The scapes exceed the median occipital border by about O.5 X their maximum thickness in the Karema specimens. In the Busu and Skull Creek ones they barely exceed the border.

5. The mesometanotal suture is almost obliterated on the mesosomal dorsum of the Karem a example, a very faint trace being visible in some lights. The suture is not incised in the Skull Creek specimen, but here there is a distinct sculptural discontinuity between the mesonotum and propodeum. The Busu River specimen has a similar sculptural break, and in addition the suture is weakly incised.

6. The sculpturation is variable. That of the mandibles, head and antennae in the New Guinea specimens is as described by Wilson, the frons of the Skull Creek specimen is similarly densely and coarsely punctate, but the punctures are larger - up to approximately 1.5 X the size of those in the New Guinea examples.

The mesosomal sculpturation in the Karema specimens is relatively light, as described by Wilson. The Busu River specimen has the disc of the pronotum moderately coarsely punctate, the individual punctures about 0.006 mm in diameter, separated by distances averaging a little more than half their maximum diameter; the sides of the pronotum are less heavily punctate than its dorsum, and there is a distinct faint transverse rugosity of the interpunctural surfaces. Mesonotal puncturation similar to that of pronotal disc, but with a distinct, though somewhat effaced, accompanying longitudinal rugosity. There is a distinct sculptural break along the mesometanotal suture, propodeal dorsum being rather finely and sparsely punctate. The sculpturing of the sides of the mesosoma is similar to that of the Karema specimens.

The mesosoma of the Skull Creek specimen is somewhat more heavily punctate than either of the New Guinea ones: pronotum subopaque, with a contiguous cover of shallow punctures about 0.01 mm in diameter. Mesonotum much as in Busu River specimen, slightly more coarsely and densely sculptured; propodeal dorsum slightly more coarsely and closely punctate. The mesonotal-propodeal discontinuity marked.

Type Material

Lemien, near Berlinhafen (Aitape), NE New Guinea


  • Emery, C. 1900. Formicidarum species novae vel minus cognitae in collectione Musaei Nationalis Hungarici quas in Nova-Guinea, colonia germanica, collegit L. Biró. Publicatio secunda. Természetrajzi Füzetek, 23: 310–338. (page 317, pl. 8, figs. 4-6 worker described)
  • Taylor, R. W. 1967a. A monographic revision of the ant genus Ponera Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pac. Insects Monogr. 13: 1-112. (page 41, see also)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1933g. Three obscure genera of ponerine ants. American Museum Novitates 672: 1-23. (page 21, Combination in Selenopone)
  • Wilson, E. O. 1957b. The tenuis and selenophora groups of the ant genus Ponera (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 116: 355-386. (page 382, Combination in Ponera)

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • CSIRO Collection
  • Emery C. 1900. Formicidarum species novae vel minus cognitae in collectione Musaei Nationalis Hungarici quas in Nova-Guinea, colonia germanica, collegit L. Biró. Publicatio secunda. Természetrajzi Füzetek 23: 310-338.
  • Emery C. 1911. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125.
  • Janda M., G. D. Alpert, M. L. Borowiec, E. P. Economo, P. Klimes, E. Sarnat, and S. O. Shattuck. 2011. Cheklist of ants described and recorded from New Guinea and associated islands. Available on http://www.newguineants.org/. Accessed on 24th Feb. 2011.
  • Taylor R. W. 1967. A monographic revision of the ant genus Ponera Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pacific Insects Monograph 13: 1-112.
  • 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.
  • Taylor R. W., and D. R. Brown. 1985. Formicoidea. Zoological Catalogue of Australia 2: 1-149. 
  • Viehmeyer H. 1912. Ameisen aus Deutsch Neuguinea gesammelt von Dr. O. Schlaginhaufen. Nebst einem Verzeichnisse der papuanischen Arten. Abhandlungen und Berichte des Königlichen Zoologischen und Anthropologische-Ethnographischen Museums zu Dresden 14: 1-26.
  • Wheeler W. M. 1933. Three obscure genera of ponerine ants. American Museum Novitates 672: 1-23.
  • Wilson E. O. 1957. The tenuis and selenophora groups of the ant genus Ponera (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 116: 355-386.
  • Wilson Edward O. 1959. Adaptive Shift and Dispersal in a Tropical Ant Fauna. Evolution 13(1): 122-144