Ponera tenuis

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

Ponera tenuis side view

Ponera tenuis top view

Specimen labels


Ponera tenuis is found in leaf litter, logs, moss and other situations on the ground, always in rainforests.


Taylor (1967) - Easily recognized by the combination of medium size (HW 0.40-0.45 mm) with the characters of its species group (4-segmented antennal club and lack of an incised mesometanotal suture). The other 3 tenuis group species, with which tenuis is probably sympatric on New Guinea, are all smaller (HW 0.30-0.34 mm). In Samoa the species group characters are diagnostic. The absence of pupal cocoons provides a useful character for field recognition; this is the only known Ponera with naked pupae.

Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -3.089444444° to -21.21666908°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia.
Indo-Australian Region: Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), New Guinea, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga.
Palaearctic Region: China.

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.


Beyond its habitat affinities, little is known about the biology of Ponera tenuis.

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. ‎


Images from AntWeb

Ponera tenuis casent0172429 head 1.jpgPonera tenuis casent0172429 profile 1.jpgPonera tenuis casent0172429 dorsal 1.jpgPonera tenuis casent0172429 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0172429. 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.

  • tenuis. Cryptopone tenuis Emery, 1900c: 321, pl. 8, figs. 21, 22 (w.q.) NEW GUINEA. Combination in Pseudocryptopone: Wheeler, W.M. 1933g: 13; in Ponera: Wilson, 1957b: 373. Senior synonym of huonica: Taylor, 1967a: 98.
  • huonica. Ponera huonica Wilson, 1957b: 365, fig. 2 (w.q.m.) NEW GUINEA. Junior synonym of tenuis: Taylor, 1967a: 98.

Type Material

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 83-87

Wilson (1957) Lectotype. HW 0.44 mm, HL 0.52 mm, SL 0.35 mm, CI 85, S1 80, PW 0.32 mm, petiole height 0.32 mm, petiolar node length 0.17 mm, dorsal petiole width 0.22 mm. Right mandible with three rather worn, indistinct teeth occupying the apical half of the masticatory border; followed by an indeterminate number of minute, blunt denticles occupying the basal half of the border. Eyes minute, consisting of a single ommatidium. Antennal club massive, distinctly 4-jointed, considerably longer than the remainder of the funiculus. Petiolar node seen from the side subtrapezoidal, tapering slightly dorsally, with a convex dorsal margin, its dorsal surface seen from directly above forming almost exactly a half-circle or very slightly less. Anterior half of subpetiolar process perforated by a small, median hole; the posterior apex of the process forming an acute angle.

Sculpturing as described for P. huonica Wilson.

Pilosity and pubescence as described for P. huo1llica, except that erect hairs are lacking from the occiput and pronotum; these missing hairs may well have been rubbed off in this specimen, because they are present in more recently collected material determined as tenuis.

Body uniformly yellowish brown, appendages clear yellow (specimen possibly faded; see below).

Variation in other worker series. The following measurements are based on three workers from a single nest series collected at Ebabaang : HW 0.42-0.43 mm, HL 0.49-0.52 mm, SL 0.33-0.35 mm, 01 82-86, SI 78-83, PW 0.32 mm. In these specimens the anterior half of the subpetiolar process is not perforated as in the lectotype, and the posterior angle of the process forms a right angle instead of an acute angle. The body color is uniformly blackish brown, and the appendage color is light yellowish brown; there is an excellent possibility that the considerably lighter color of the lectotype is due to fading.

Taylor (1967) - Wilson's (1957) redescription of a tenuis syntype, and his original description huonica cover general characters, but the following additional notes are pertinent:

1. Mandibular dentition varies intranidally in New Guinea samples. As usual in the genus, one observes 3 large apical teeth, followed by a series of 6-10 small denticles. In most specimens several denticles are larger than the others (usually one or 2 at about the middle of the series, and the posterior one). Minimally they are barely enlarged; maximally they are as large as the middle, or smallest, of the anterior trio of teeth. Only 2 of 30 New Guinean specimens have completely uniform denticle series. A regular row of denticles is usual in Samoan specimens, which show little tendency towards denticular heterogeniety.

2. Palpal formula: Maxillary 2: Labial 2 (3 workers each from Aiyura and Samoa dissected).

3. Dorsal mesometanotal suture totally lacking in all specimens. It is sometimes represented by a narrow, but obtuse, impression, which never breaks the underlying sculpturation.

4. Structure of the subpetiolar process shows intrademe variation as illustrated in figs. 84 and 85 (variant types labelled A-D). The varying features include depth of the process, shape of its anterior and ventral outlines, size and shape of the fenestra, and degree of development of the posteroventral teeth. There is apparent geographical variation in expression of these characters. The samples differ as follows : Huon Peninsula specimens (including the "huonica" types) range in structure from type A (fig. 84) to type B (fig. 85), most being about intermediate. The Aiyura specimens range from type B to type C (fig. 85), most being about intermediate. The Samoan specimens are even less conservative, most have structure intermediate between types C and D (fig. 85-type D is a selected maximally bizarre example). At the other extreme a few Samoan specimens have type B petioles.

Wilson fig. 2


Wilson (1957) - (tentative determination). HW 0.50 mm, HL 0.58 mm, SL 0.40 mm, 01 86, SI 80, dorsal petiole width 0.27 mm. Differing from the worker by the usual formicid queen-worker differences. Maximum eye length 0.15 mm. Petiolar node much thinner than in worker, seen from directly above forming much less than a half-circle. Distinguished from the queen of Ponera huonica by its larger size, darker body color (uniformly blackish brown as opposed to predominantly medium brown in huonica), and somewhat thinner petiolar node.

Taylor (1967) - Apart from slight quantitative differences queens show little variation. Wilson's 5 specimens, plus 6 from Samoa have the following dimensions: HL 0.51-0.59 mm; HW 0.43-0.51 mm; SL 0.35-0.42 mm; CI 80-86; SI 78-83; PW 0.29-0.33 mm; PNL 0.18-0.21 mm; PH 0.32-0.36 mm; DPW 0.22-0.28 mm; PNI 68-74; maximum length of compound eye 0.28-0.30 mm; ocular index 31-37; palpal formula: Maxillary 2: Labial 2 (2 speciments dissected). Agreeing with the standard plan for the genus; diagnosed by size and the 4-segmented antennal club. Wing venation of “coarctata type.”


Taylor (1967) - A single male. (huonica type series), described by Wilson (1957) is typical for the genus.

Immature Forms

Taylor (1967) - Larvae have 3 pairs of glutinous abdominal tubercles. Pupae of all castes lack coccons (I have seen sufficient material to be sure that these are never spun).

Type Material

Taylor (1967) - Lemien, near Berlinhafen (=Aitape,) and Tamara I., NE New Guinea.


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • CSIRO Collection
  • Clouse R. M. 2007. The ants of Micronesia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Micronesica. 39: 171-295.
  • Clouse, R.M. 2007. The ants of Micronesia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Micronesica 39(2): 171-295.
  • Collingwood, C. A. and Van Harten, Antonius. 2001. The Ants (Hym., Formicidae)of Niue, Souh West Pacific. Entomologist's Monthly Magazine. 137:139-143.
  • Dlussky G.M. 1994. Zoogeography of southwestern Oceania. Zhivotnoe naselenie ostrovov Iugo-Zapadnoi Okeanii ekologo-geograficheskie issledovanii 48-93.
  • 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.
  • Kami K.S., and S. E. Miller. 1998. Samoan insects and related arthropods: checklist and bibliography. Bishop Museum Technical Report 13, pp 121.
  • Lucky A., E. Sarnat, and L. Alonso. 2011. Ants of the Muller Range, Papua New Guinea, Chapter 10. In Richards, S. J. and Gamui, B. G. (editors). 2013. Rapid Biological Assessments of the Nakanai Mountains and the upper Strickland Basin: surveying the biodiversity of Papua New Guinea’s sublime karst environments. RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment 60. Conservation International. Arlington, VA.
  • Snelling R. R. 2000. Ants of the Wapoga river area, Irian Jaya, Indonesia. In Mack, Andrew L. and Leeanne E. Alonso (eds.). 2000. A Biological Assessment of the Wapoga River Area of Northwestern Irian Jaya, Indonesia. RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment 14, Conservation International, Washington, DC.
  • Taylor R. W. 1967. A monographic revision of the ant genus Ponera Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pacific Insects Monograph 13: 1-112.
  • Terayama, M.; Miyano, S.; Kurozumi, T. 1994. Ant fauna (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the northern Mariana Islands, Micronesia. Natural History Research Special Issue 1:231-236.
  • Terayama. M. 2004. Geological and ecological distribution of Japanese ants communities. (translated from Japanese) Reports of the Saitama Prefecture Animal Research Association. 48:27
  • 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.
  • Wetterer, James K. 2002. Ants of Tonga. Pacific Science. 56.2: 125-135.
  • Wetterer, James K. 2006. Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Niue, Polynesia. Pacif Science. 60:(3)413-416.
  • Wetterer, James K. and Vargo, Donald Vargo L. 2003. Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Samoa. Pacific Science. 57(4):409-419.
  • 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 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 E. O.; Taylor, R. W. 1967. The ants of Polynesia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pacific Insects Monograph 14:1-109.
  • Wilson EO, Hunt GL. 1967. Ant fauna of Futuna and Wallis Islands, stepping stones to Polynesia. Pacific Insects 9.4: 563-584.
  • Wilson EO, Taylor RW. 1967. The ants of Polynesia. Pacific Insects Monograph 14:1-109.
  • Wilson Edward O. 1959. Adaptive Shift and Dispersal in a Tropical Ant Fauna. Evolution 13(1): 122-144
  • Wilson, Edward O. and George L. Hunt. 1967. Ant Fauna of Futuna and Wallis Islands, Stepping Stones To Polynesia. Pacific Insects. 9(4):563-584.
  • Wilson, Edward O. and Hunt, George L. Jr. 1967. Ant Fauna of Futuna and Wallis Islands, Stepping Stones to Polynesia. Pacific Insects. 9(4):563-584