Syllophopsis modesta

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Syllophopsis modesta
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Solenopsidini
Genus: Syllophopsis
Species: S. modesta
Binomial name
Syllophopsis modesta
(Santschi, 1914)

Monomorium modestum casent0026710 profile 1.jpg

Monomorium modestum casent0026710 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


Heterick (2006) - With the exception of one worker taken in a pitfall trap, the universal collection method for this species has been sifted litter. All specimens have been collected in rainforest. Sharaf and Aldawood (2013) - Nesting and foraging in humid leaf litter.


Heterick (2006) - The workers of S. modestum are nearly identical in appearance to small, depigmented yellow workers of Syllophopsis hildebrandti, from which they differ only in the form of the compound eye. The weakly angulate to rounded propodeum enables Malagasy workers of the species to be separated from those of Syllophopsis cryptobia and Syllophopsis sechellensis.

See the Nomenclature section for additional identification details.

Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -3.916666667° to -33.98333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Afrotropical Region: Ivory Coast, Kenya, South Africa (type locality), United Republic of Tanzania.
Malagasy Region: Mayotte.

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.


Heterick (2006) - On Madagascar Monomorium modestum has a known distribution that is exactly complementary to that of Syllophopsis sechellensis, the latter occupying the drier west coast of Madagascar and the former the more humid east coast. Populations of these two species converge in the south near the Isantoria River (Toliara Province).




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

  • modesta. Monomorium modestum Santschi, 1914e: 17 (w.) SOUTH AFRICA.
    • Type-material: 2 syntype workers.
    • Type-locality: South Africa: Natal, Stamford Hill, i.1905 (I. Trägårdh).
    • Type-depository: NHMB.
    • Combination in M. (Syllophopsis): Santschi, 1915c: 260;
    • combination in Monomorium: Bolton, 1987: 423;
    • combination in Syllophopsis: Ward, et al. 2015: 73.
    • Status as species: Santschi, 1915c: 260; Arnold, 1916: 214; Santschi, 1921c: 120 (in key); Emery, 1922e: 175; Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 867; Arnold, 1952a: 464; Ettershank, 1966: 101; Bolton, 1987: 423 (redescription); Bolton, 1995b: 264; Heterick, 2006: 177 (redescription); Hita Garcia, et al. 2013: 213; Sharaf & Aldawood, 2013a: 81 (in key).
    • Senior synonym of boerorum: Bolton, 1987: 423; Heterick, 2006: 177.
    • Senior synonym of smutsi: Bolton, 1987: 423; Bolton, 1995b: 264; Heterick, 2006: 177.
    • Senior synonym of transwaalensis: Bolton, 1987: 423; Bolton, 1995b: 264; Heterick, 2006: 177.
    • Distribution: Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa.
  • smutsi. Monomorium (Syllophopsis) modestum var. smutsi Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 867.
    • Unnecessary (second) replacement name for boerorum Santschi, 1915c: 260.
    • Junior synonym of modesta: Bolton, 1987: 423; Bolton, 1995b: 267; Heterick, 2006: 177.
  • transwaalensis. Monomorium (Syllophopsis) modestum var. transwaalensis Emery, 1922e: 175.
    • Replacement name for Monomorium (Syllophopsis) modestum var. boerorum Santschi, 1915c: 260. [Junior primary homonym of Monomorium minutum var. boerorum Forel, 1910e: 442.]
    • Subspecies of modesta: Ettershank, 1966: 101.
    • Junior synonym of modesta: Bolton, 1987: 423; Bolton, 1995b: 268; Heterick, 2006: 177.

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

Heterick (2006) - At the time of writing, type material for Syllophopsis modestum is missing (per Dr. D. Burckhardt, NHMB, pers. commun.), and the syntype of Syllophopsis modestum transwaalense (i.e., previously Syllophopsis modestum boerorum) available to me for examination is headless, hence the identification of the Malagasy material as Syllophopsis modestum is provisional. Bolton (1987) uses the morphology of the propodeum and the nature of the metanotal groove to distinguish S. modestum from other African ants in that species group. The transwaalense syntype, however, clearly has an angulate propodeum that approximates to what can be found in many Syllophopsis cryptobia specimens. In workers of these small ants propodeal denticles are not always present. Moreover, the transwaalense syntype has quite a distinct metanotal impression, not the ‘simple indentation’ that Bolton mentions. The Malagasy material, on the other hand, does have a much more rounded propodeum and the metanotal groove is indeed simply a weak impression. In fact, Malagasy workers have much more of the appearance of Fig. 95 in Bolton’s monograph than the transwaalense syntype. Electronic images of worker material collected many years ago in Natal and identified (probably by Arnold: H. Robertson pers. commun.) as S. modestum have been sent to me by Dr. Hamish Robertson (South African Museum), and these appear to be identical with the Malagasy workers. This raises the possibility that Syllophopsis modestum and Syllophopsis modestum transwaalense may not be conspecific. The general appearance of the transwaalense syntype suggests Syllophopsis sechellensis, but in that species the propodeum is distinctly dentate and the mesopleuron is sculptured, whereas this is not the case with transwaalense.



Heterick (2006) - Syntype: Measurements not taken as syntype is headless. HML 1.21–1.44 HL 0.46–0.52 HW 0.36–0.41 CeI 77–80 SL 0.33–0.39 SI 90–97 PW 0.22–0.30 (n=20).

HEAD: Head rectangular; vertex planar; frons shining and smooth except for piliferous pits; pilosity of frons a mixture of incurved, semi-erect setae and slightly shorter decumbent setae. Eye minute, eyes consisting of one or two ommatidia only; (in full-face view) eyes set at about midpoint of head capsule; (viewed in profile) eyes set around midline of head capsule, or, set posteriad of midline of head capsule; Antennal segments 12; antennal club three-segmented. Clypeal carinae weakly to strongly defined; anteromedian clypeal margin emarginate, clypeal carinae indistinct, or, emarginate, clypeal carinae terminating in blunt angles, or, emarginate, clypeal carinae terminating in small denticles; paraclypeal setae moderately long and fine, curved; posteromedian clypeal margin extending slightly beyond level of posterior margin of antennal fossae. Anterior tentorial pits situated nearer mandibular insertions than antennal fossae. Frontal lobes sinuate, divergent posteriad. Psammophore absent. Palp formula 2,2. Mandibular teeth four; mandibles linear-triangular and smooth (except for piliferous pits); masticatory margin of mandibles strongly oblique; basal tooth approximately same size as t3 (four teeth present).

MESOSOMA: Promesonotum shining and mainly smooth, vestigial striolae, if present, confined to lower anterior mesopleuron; (viewed in profile) anterior promesonotum smoothly rounded, thereafter more-or-less flattened, promesonotum on same plane as propodeum; promesonotal setae greater than twelve; standing promesonotal setae consisting of a mixture of incurved, semi-erect setae and slightly shorter decumbent setae; appressed promesonotal setulae few, mainly on sides of promesonotum. Metanotal groove strongly impressed, with distinct transverse costulae, or vestigial. Propodeum shining and smooth, metapleuron with a few weak striolae; propodeal dorsum flat throughout most of its length; propodeum smoothly rounded or with indistinct angle; standing propodeal setae consisting of one prominent pair anteriad, with a few to many erect to decumbent setae on/around dorsal and declivitous faces of propodeum; appressed propodeal setulae very sparse or absent; propodeal spiracle nearer metanotal groove than declivitous face of propodeum. Vestibule of propodeal spiracle absent or not visible. Propodeal lobes present as rounded flanges.

PETIOLE AND POSTPETIOLE: Petiolar spiracle lateral and situated within anterior sector of petiolar node; node (viewed in profile) conical, vertex rounded; appearance of node shining and smooth throughout; ratio of greatest node breadth (viewed from front) to greatest node width (viewed in profile) about 1:1; anteroventral petiolar process present as a thin flange tapering posteriad; ventral petiolar lobe present; height ratio of petiole to postpetiole between 3:2 and 4:3; height–length ratio of postpetiole about 1:1; postpetiole shining and smooth; postpetiolar sternite depressed at about its center, with anterior process developed as a short, conspicuous spur angled at 45–90.

GASTER: Pilosity of first gastral tergite consisting of a mixture of incurved, semi-erect setae and slightly shorter decumbent setae.

GENERAL CHARACTERS: Color depigmented creamy yellow. Worker caste monomorphic.

Type Material

Heterick (2006) - Syntype workers South Africa: Natal, Stamford Hill (Naturhistorisches Museum, Basel) [type material misplaced in NMHB]. M. modestum transwaalense (corrected ending): SYNTYPE: worker, South Africa (Transvaal), Pretoria (NHMB – Reg. No. 207). The syntype examined is headless. Other, more complete syntypes may be in existence, hence this specimen has not been designated a lectotype.


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Arnold G. 1916. A monograph of the Formicidae of South Africa. Part II. Ponerinae, Dorylinae. Annals of the South African Museum. 14: 159-270.
  • Bolton B. 1987. A review of the Solenopsis genus-group and revision of Afrotropical Monomorium Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History). Entomology 54: 263-452.
  • Garcia F.H., Wiesel E. and Fischer G. 2013.The Ants of Kenya (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)—Faunal Overview, First Species Checklist, Bibliography, Accounts for All Genera, and Discussion on Taxonomy and Zoogeography. Journal of East African Natural History, 101(2): 127-222
  • Heterick B. 2006. A Revision of the Malagasy Ants Belonging to Genus Monomorium Mayr, 1855 (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Proceeding of the California Academy of Sciences (PCAS) 57: 69-202
  • IZIKO South Africa Museum Collection
  • Santschi F. 1915. Nouvelles fourmis d'Afrique. Annales de la Société Entomologique de France 84: 244-282.
  • Sharaf M.R., Aldawood, A.S. 2013. First occurrence of the Monomorium hildebrandti-group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), in the Arabian Peninsula, with description of a new species M. kondratieffi n. sp. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 115: 75-84 (doi:10.4289/0013-8797.115.1.75).
  • Wheeler W. M. 1922. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. VIII. A synonymic list of the ants of the Ethiopian region. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 45: 711-1004