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Prionopelta punctulata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Amblyoponinae
Tribe: Amblyoponini
Genus: Prionopelta
Mayr, 1866
Type species
Prionopelta punctulata
25 species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)

Prionopelta punctulata casent0179474 profile 1.jpg

Prionopelta punctulata

Prionopelta punctulata casent0179474 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Evolutionary Relationships

  (1 species)

  (25 species)

  (10 species)

  (4 species)

  (25 species)

  (9 species), some Stigmatomma

  (1 species), some Stigmatomma

some Stigmatomma

  (2 species)

  (14 species)

some Stigmatomma

Based on Ward & Fisher, 2016. Note that Stigmatomma is not currently monophyletic and some species are more closely related to those of other genera than to each other.

Specimens of Prionopelta are uncommonly encountered. Nests are in soil under objects, under bark or in rotten wood. Workers are rarely seen above ground and they apparently forage primarily in leaf litter or in other cryptic situations.


Mandibles long and slender and usually with 3 teeth (although sometimes with a few very small denticles as well) that are grouped together near the tip on a face separate from the rest of the mandible. The petiole has distinct front and upper faces but lacks a rear face, and its attachment to the gaster is broad and approximately the same height as the petiole so that the upper surfaces of petiole and gaster are separated by at most a shallow impression. Overall length small, less than about 2mm in total length. These small ants can be recognised by the shape of the mandibles and petiole.

These are small and yellowish ants, and in the field could be mistaken for Solenopsis of the subgenus Diplorhoptrum, which are common in the habitats where Prionopelta occur. Prionopelta walk with a slightly undulating or wriggling movement, and this helps distinguish them from Solenopsis of similar size.

Keys including this Genus


Keys to Species in this Genus

Afrotropical species

Images of Afrotropical species


Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps


Prionopelta humicola, Kibale forest, Uganda. Image © Alex Wild.

Colonies occur in soil, and the ants show characteristics of subterranean life, including small size, pale color, and elongate mandibles (Brown 1960). The first detailed natural history work on Prionopelta is Holldobler and Wilson's study (1986) of Prionopelta amabilis, summarized here. Colonies, which may be either mono- or polydomus, occur in rotten wood on the ground in forested areas. In a feeding preference test involving many groups of soil arthropods, the ants stung and killed most of the arthropods provided, but consumed only a few species. Prionopelta amabilis definitely prefers campodeids, although a small centipede and two beetle pupae were also eaten. Workers produce trophic eggs that are presented to the queen. There is a rudimentary division of labor in attendance on the queen, apparently based on the age of maximum production of trophic eggs. Trophallaxis and adult transport are apparently absent. Workers use fragments of old pupal cocoons to "wallpaper" galleries containing pupae, probably to reduce moisture in these galleries. Workers show a "foot-dragging" behavior, and in a later paper (1992) Holldobler et al. showed that a previously unknown gland in the hind basitarsus disperses a trail pheromone.


Prionopelta humicola, Kibale forest, Uganda. Image © Alex Wild.


Worker Morphology

  • Antennal segment count: 8; 9; 10; 11; 12
  • Antennal club: 3-4
  • Palp formula: 2,2
  • Spur formula: 1 pectinate, 1 pectinate; 1 simple, 1 pectinate; 0, 1 pectinate
  • Sting: present

Male Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 13 • Antennal club 0 • Palp formula 2,2 • Total dental count 1-2 • Spur formula 1 simple-barbulate , 1 pectinate


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

  • PRIONOPELTA [Amblyoponinae]
    • Prionopelta Mayr, 1866a: 503. Type-species: Prionopelta punctulata, by monotypy.
    • Prionopelta senior synonym of Examblyopone: Brown, 1951: 102.
    • Prionopelta senior synonym of Renea: Brown, 1953c: 11.
  • CONCOCTIO [junior synonym of Prionopelta]
    • Concoctio Brown, 1974d: 29. Type-species: Concoctio concenta, by original designation.
    • Concoctio junior synonym of Prionopelta: Ward & Fisher, 2016: 691.
  • EXAMBLYOPONE [junior synonym of Prionopelta]
    • Examblyopone Donisthorpe, 1949g: 401. Type-species: Examblyopone churchilli (junior synonym of Prionopelta majuscula), by original designation.
    • Examblyopone junior synonym of Prionopelta: Brown, 1951: 102.
  • RENEA [junior synonym of Prionopelta]
    • Renea Donisthorpe, 1947d: 183. Type-species: Renea testacea (junior synonym of Prionopelta majuscula), by original designation.
    • Renea junior synonym of Prionopelta: Brown, 1953c: 11.


  • 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, Prionopelta in Ponerinae, Proceratiini)
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 156, Prionopelta in Amblyoponinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1951. New synonymy of a few genera and species of ants. Bull. Brooklyn Entomol. Soc. 46: 101-106 (page 102, Prionopelta senior synonym of Examblyopone)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1953c. Characters and synonymies among the genera of ants. Part I. Breviora 11: 1-13 (page 11, Prionopelta senior synonym of Renea, Prionopelta in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1960a. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. III. Tribe Amblyoponini (Hymenoptera). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 122: 143-230 (page 173, Revision of genus, Prionopelta in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 15, Prionopelta in Ponerinae)
  • Emery, C. 1895l. Die Gattung Dorylus Fab. und die systematische Eintheilung der Formiciden. Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 685-778 (page 766, Prionopelta in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 32, Prionopelta in Ponerinae, Ectatommini [subtribe Typhlomyrmecini])
  • Forel, A. 1893b. Sur la classification de la famille des Formicides, avec remarques synonymiques. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 37: 161-167 (page 162, Prionopelta in Amblyoponinae)
  • Forel, A. 1895b. A fauna das formigas do Brazil. Bol. Mus. Para. Hist. Nat. Ethnogr. 1: 89-139 (page 110, Prionopelta in Amblyoponinae [Amblyoponeridae])
  • Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 236, Prionopelta in Ponerinae, Ectatommini )
  • Liu, C., Fischer, G., Hita Garcia, F., Yamane, S., Liu, Q., Peng, Y.Q., Economo, E.P., Guénard, B., Pierce, N.E. 2020. Ants of the Hengduan Mountains: a new altitudinal survey and updated checklist for Yunnan Province highlight an understudied insect biodiversity hotspot. ZooKeys 978, 1–171 (doi:10.3897/zookeys.978.55767).
  • Mayr, G. 1866a. Myrmecologische Beiträge. Sitzungsber. Kais. Akad. Wiss. Wien Math.-Naturwiss. Cl. Abt. I 53: 484-517 (page 503, Prionopelta as genus)
  • Shattuck, S.O. (2008) Revision of the ant genus Prionopelta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Indo-Pacific region. Zootaxa 1846, 21–34.
  • Ward, P.S. & Fisher, B.L. 2016. Tales of dracula ants: the evolutionary history of the ant subfamily Amblyoponinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Systematic Entomology, 41, 683–693 (doi:10.1111/syen.12186).
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910f. A new species of Aphomomyrmex from Borneo. Psyche (Camb.) 17: 131-135 (page 134, Prionopelta in Ponerinae, Amblyoponini)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1922i. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. VII. Keys to the genera and subgenera of ants. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 45: 631-710 (page 642, Prionopelta in Ponerinae, Ectatommini )