Ponera syscena

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Ponera syscena
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Ponera
Species: P. syscena
Binomial name
Ponera syscena
Wilson, 1957

Taylor collected "strays ex rotting wood fragment, and under moss on log, damp rain forest gully" in Kunai Creek, near Wau New Guinea.


Taylor (1967) - A member of the taipingensis group group, close in size (i.e., HW) to the Malayan Ponera taipingensis, and the Fijian Ponera colaensis but readily distinguished from them by the narrower petiolar node (PNI 79-82 mm as opposed to 84-91 mm in these other species). The Samoan Ponera loi is similar to this species (see loi for characters distinguishing these two species).

Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -5.083330154° to -5.333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Indo-Australian Region: New Guinea (type locality).

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.


Little is known about the biology of Ponera syscena.

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.


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

  • syscena. Ponera syscena Wilson, 1957b: 384 (w.) NEW GUINEA. See also: Taylor, 1967a: 57.

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



Taylor 1967 Ponera fig 43-54

Taylor (1967) - The following notes are based on Wilson's unique holotype and a series of 7 additional workers from the vicinity of Wau, NE New Guinea.

1. Dimensions (holotype cited first): HL 0.61 mm, 0.60-0.62 mm; HW 0.50 mm, 0.48-0.50 mm; SL 0.44 mm, 0.44-0.46 mm; CI 84, 80-82; SI 86, 90-92; PW 0.39 mm, 0.39-0.40 mm; PNL 0.22 mm, 0.21-0.22 mm; PH 0.40 mm, 0.39-0.42 mm; DPW 0.31 mm, 0.31-0.33 mm; PNI 79, 80-82. The discrepancies in CI and SI of the holotype are due to its having a slightly greater head width measurement than would be expected; in every other regard it agrees with the other specimens exactly. Wilson's diagnosis adequately characterizes this species. The following diagnostic notes should allow verification of specimens running to syscena in the key above.

2. The clypeus of the holotype is not distinctly dentate, but bears a low raised blunt tumosity, which is clearly a vestigial tooth. One of the Wau specimens has a similar clypeus, but the others each have a moderately acute clypeal tooth, almost 0.02 mm high and a little wider at its base.

3. The scapes almost exactly reach median occipital border when laid back on head. Funiculus as in Ponera clavicornis - effectively lacking a differentiated club, but in some specimens the apical 4 or 5 segments form a very feeble club.

4. Eyes with 3 to 6 very indistinct facets, situated about 0.82 to 0.87 X the distance from lateral occipital border to midpoint of anterior genal border.

5. Palpal formula: Maxillary 2: Labial 2 (one specimen dissected).

6. Mesometanotal suture completely lacking on mesosomal dorsum.

Type Material

Taylor (1967) - NE New Guinea. Native trail between Yunzain and Joangeng, Mongi Watershed, Huon Peninsula, 1300 m, midmountain rain forest, 7.IV. 1 955. E. O. Wilson. (holotype examined - Museum of Comparative Zoology).


  • Taylor, R. W. 1967a. A monographic revision of the ant genus Ponera Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pac. Insects Monogr. 13: 1-112 (page 57, see also)
  • 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 384, worker described)

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • CSIRO Collection
  • 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.
  • 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 E. O. 1958. 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.
  • Wilson Edward O. 1959. Adaptive Shift and Dispersal in a Tropical Ant Fauna. Evolution 13(1): 122-144