Temnothorax liebi

AntWiki: The Ants --- Online
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Temnothorax liebi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Temnothorax
Species group: sallei
Species: T. liebi
Binomial name
Temnothorax liebi
(Mackay, W.P., 2000)

Temnothorax liebi casent0103164 head 1.jpg

Temnothorax liebi casent0103164 dorsal 1.jpg

Temnothorax liebi has been found nesting in soil in creosote bush scrub in the Chihuahuan Desert. Their light color and large eyes suggest this is a species that is active nocturnally.


Prebus (2017) - A member of the sallei clade.

Mackay (2000) - This is a small, pale yellow, nearly white ant with dark eyes. It is soft bodied, and usually becomes distorted when dried on a point. It can be easily distinguished by the large eyes, which have a maximum diameter greater than the distance between the anterior border of the eye and the base of the mandible. The antenna has 12 segments, the head is heavily and densely punctate, with the punctures forming weak striae. The propodeal spines are poorly developed, forming small angles. The petiolar node is truncate. These characters will actually separate it from all other members of the genus.

This species could be confused with Temnothorax terrigena or Temnothorax punctatissimus, and could be easily separated with the characters in the diagnosis. It somewhat resembles Temnothorax coleenae in terms of sculpture, but differs in having the large eyes and a blunt petiolar node. The discussion of Temnothorax coleenae includes suggestions as to how to distinguish the pale, desert species, including Temnothorax andersoni, Temnothorax bestelmeyeri, Temnothorax cokendolpheri, Temnothorax coleenae, and Temnothorax liebi. The large eye may cause it to be confused with Temnothorax obliquicanthus, but the eye is not kidney shaped and the first tergum of the gaster is entirely smooth and shining, not sculptured as in Temnothorax obliquicanthus. Therefore there is little likelihood that this species would be confused with any other. This is another species of the Chihuahuan Desert that is pale yellow in color with dark eyes. These are presumably adaptations to nocturnal foraging, although the specimens at Van Horn were collected actively foraging at the nest entrance during the day. This coloration appears to be the result of convergent evolution, as these pale, desert species seem to have little in common morphologically other than color.

Keys including this Species


USA. Known only from southwestern Texas.

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 34.156971° to 30.880375°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States (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.



Collected from creosote bush scrub in the Chihuahuan Desert.


Only known from a few collections.


Explore-icon.png Explore Overview of biology 
Not much is known about the the biology of this taxon. We can speculate that its biology is likely to be similar to other North American species of this genus.

Temnothorax is a diverse genus but most species do show a remarkable consistency in some important aspects of their biology. Workers and colonies are small. As a group they nest in many places: small cavities in the soil, under or among stones or in small cavities in living or dead vegetation. Individually, most species have a strong preference for how and where they nest, e.g., there are gall nesting species, soil nesters, arboreal species, those that nest in small downed twigs, etc. Their nest entrances are often a cryptic, tiny hole that is only found by observing a worker exiting or entering the nest. A few common and abundant species are relatively well studied but the majority are rare or are rarely collected. For all but the most common and abundant species finding a nest is difficult because of the combination of their small colony size, small workers, unaggressive behavior, and diminutive, inconspicuous nests. In a few cases where we do know the diet of a species, it consists of sweet exudates and general scavenging of insect pieces and other items. It is presumed most of the unstudied Temnothorax have a similar diet. Aphid tending and hunting small soil arthropods may also be a part of their foraging repertoire. For all the consistency in these characters, individual species exhibit wide variation in others. Habitat affinities are often restrictive at the species level (but overall Temnothorax can be found in places that range from high elevation, high latitude, forests to hot, dry desert regions). Queen number is difficult to predict; there are species that are polygnous, monogynous, and even some species with seasonal polydomy that vary in nesting site queen number over the course of the year. There is also little consistency in color from species to species. ‎


Only known from the worker caste.


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

  • liebi. Leptothorax (Myrafant) liebi Mackay, W.P., 2000: 353, figs. 16, 36, 42, 121, 122 (w.) U.S.A. Combination in Temnothorax: Bolton, 2003: 271.

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



Mandibles with 5 teeth, basal most small, less than half volume of distal 2 teeth; anterior border of clypeus convex, clypeus with poorly defined medial carina and several weak lateral carinae; sides of head convex, wider anterior of eyes than posterior to eyes; vertex weakly concave; eyes very large, extending well past sides of head; mesosoma with none of the sutures interrupting sculpture, dorsum nearly straight; propodeal spines developed as small angles, acute apex, base broad; petiole with subpetiolar process well developed, anterior petiolar face concave, posterior face short (0.05mm), and convex, petiolar node obliquely truncate in profile; postpetiole wide, nearly 1.5 X length.

Erect hairs scattered on most surfaces, mostly coarse and dull at apices; decumbent pubescence nearly absent, except on legs and antennae.

Sculpture consisting primarily of dense punctures, entire dorsum of head punctate, (lining up into faint striae on head), some small areas on head shiny, but most surfaces dull, mesosoma, petiole and postpetiole densely punctate, with a few poorly defined rugae on sides of mesosoma, entire gaster smooth and polished.

Concolorous pale yellow with strongly contrasting black eyes.

Worker measurements: HL 0.58-0.64. HW 0.52-0.53. SL 0.44-0.47. EL 0.19-0.22. WL 0.70-0.77. PW 0.13-0.18. PL 0.16-0.20. PPW 0.19-0.29. PPL 0.14-0.19. Indices: CI 83-90. SI 73-79. PI 81-150. PPI 136-153.

Type Material

Holotype worker, USA, Texas: Hudspeth Co ., 25 KSW Van Hom, 27-x-1991, W. Mackay #15465 Museum of Comparative Zoology and paratype worker, USA, Texas, Hudspeth Co., 25 KSW Van Horn, 25-viii-1991, W. Mackay #15149 William and Emma Mackay Collection.


Patronym. "Named in honor of my close friend and colleague, Dr. Carl Lieb, previous director of the Indio Mountain Research Station, who has made major efforts in promoting and preserving the research station.


  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 271, Combination in Temnothorax)
  • MacKay, W. P. 2000. A review of the New World ants of the subgenus Myrafant, (genus Leptothorax) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 36: 265-444 (page 353, figs. 16, 36, 42, 121, 122 worker described)
  • Mackay, W. P. and E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY.
  • Prebus, M. 2017. Insights into the evolution, biogeography and natural history of the acorn ants, genus Temnothorax Mayr (hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bmc Evolutionary Biology. 17:250. doi:10.1186/s12862-017-1095-8 (The doi link to the publication's journal webpage provides access to the 24 files that accompany this article).

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Mackay W. P. 2000. A review of the New World ants of the subgenus Myrafant, (genus Leptothorax) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 36: 265-444.
  • Mackay W. P., and E. E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 400 pp.