Cephalotes prodigiosus

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Cephalotes prodigiosus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Cephalotes
Species: C. prodigiosus
Binomial name
Cephalotes prodigiosus
(Santschi, 1921)

Cephalotes prodigiosus casent0912616 p 1 high.jpg

Cephalotes prodigiosus casent0912616 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels

Nothing is known about the biology of Cephalotes prodigiosus.


A member of the prodigiosus clade. The soldier of prodigiosus shares with that of Cephalotes bivestitus, the only other species in the same clade, the colour, the large, deep foveae on the head dorsum and the propodeum with a pair of stout spines curved upwards. The gynes of both species share the head disc concave in the anterior two thirds, flat in the posterior third and the body colour, orange with darker gaster. This imperfectly known species is the largest among those with disc bearing soldiers. The soldier is recognizable from that of bivestitus by the large body size, by the head dorsum almost completely concave and by the apomorphic loss of the longitudinal carina in front of the eyes. The gyne differs from that of bivestitus by the broad, deep, irregular foveae on the cephalic dorsum. (de Andrade and Baroni Urbani 1999)

Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Argentina (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.


Explore-icon.png Explore Overview of Cephalotes biology 
The biology of many Cephalotes species is not known. Ants in this genus are common in the New World tropics and subtropics and are especially abundant and diverse in the canopies of Neotropical forests. The majority of species are arboreal. Species that live in other strata inhabit smaller trees, bushes or grass stems. These noon-arboreal species, due to their accessibility, are among the better studied members of the genus. There are also species that can be found in downed wood but it is likely the wood housed the colony before it fell to the ground. Soil nests are not known for any species nor do most species appear to extensively excavate plant tissue. They nest instead in preformed cavities. Overall, ants in the genus utilize a wide range of plants. Some species are predictable in their plant use but none appear to have evolved specialized mutualisms with particular plant species.

Worker castes typically include two forms, a worker and soldier, but there are a few species that are monomorphic. The larger soldier caste typically has an enlarged head disk. In some species the head of the soldier is very different from the worker while in others these differences are less pronounced. Queens and soldiers tend to share similar head morphology. Soldiers use their heads to plug the nest entrance. This can be very effective in excluding potential intruders. Other morphological differences between the worker castes are present but these differences have not been studied as well as head moprhology.

The behavioral repertoire of Cephalotes varians has been examined in great detail (ethograms from Wilson 1976, Cole 1980 and Cole 1983). Soldiers do little else besides defend the nest. This specialized soldier behavior is presumed to be the norm for most species. An especially interesting behavior occurs when workers are dislodged from trees: they "fly" towards the tree, often grabbing the trunk well above the ground (video).

Mature nest size varies, by species, from less than a hundred to many thousands of workers. Available evidence suggests most species are monogynous. Queens may mate with multiple males.

The proventriculus of the Cephalotes is peculiar relative to other ants. The morphology of the structure suggests it serves as a powerful pump and filter. This does not appear to lead these ants to have a highly specialized diet as most species appear to be general scavengers. Foragers have been observed feeding on carrion, bird feces, extrafloral nectaries and even tending membracids. Pollen feeding has been observed in some species, and this is somewhat specialized for ants, but it is not evident that any species restricts its diet to this resource in any significant way. Evidence for pollen feeding in Cephalotes has accumulated, in part, via finding digested pollen grains seen in infrabucal pellets. It has been suggested that the morphology of the proventriculus is a specialization for processing pollen.

More research examining all aspects of the biology of Cephalotes is needed. Our present understanding of these ants is largely based on species that live in locations other than the forest canopy, which is where Cephalotes are most common and diverse. ‎



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

  • prodigiosus. Cryptocerus (Cyathocephalus) prodigiosus Santschi, 1921h: 124 (s.q.) ARGENTINA (Santiago del Estero).
    • Type-material: 2 syntype soldiers, 2 syntype queens.
    • [Note (i): De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999: 675, report that the lectotype soldier designated by Kempf, 1964b: 252 (in NHMB) cannot be found. Perhaps it was never labelled because De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999: 677, report 2 soldiers, 1 queen as examined syntypes. Material is therefore all retained here as syntypic.]
    • Type-localities: 1 soldier, 1 queen Argentina: Santiago del Estero, edge Río Salado, vic. Icaño (E.R. Wagner); 1 soldier, 1 queen Argentina: Santiago del Estero, Río Dulce (Le Moult).
    • Type-depositories: MNHN, NHMB.
    • Combination in Paracryptocerus (Harnedia): Kempf, 1958a: 49;
    • combination in Zacryptocerus: Brandão, 1991: 388;
    • combination in Cephalotes: De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999: 675.
    • Status as species: Kempf, 1958a: 49; Kempf, 1964b: 252 (redescription); Kempf, 1972a: 179; Brandão, 1991: 388; Bolton, 1995b: 427; De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999: 675 (redescription).
    • Distribution: Argentina.

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



Kempf (1964) – Total length 10.7 mm; maximum length of head 3.05 mm; maximum width of head 2.95 mm; Weber's length of thorax 3.00 mm. Black; upper half of sides of head, cephalic disc, shoulders, tip of epinotal teeth, extensor face of tibiae, four apical tarsites more or less brownish red.

Head opaque, finely reticulate-punctate, about as broad as long, surmounted by a broadly ovoid, deeply excavate, completely marginate saucerlike disc, having the posterior border evenly rounded, the anterior border excised above the reticulate-rugose mandibles; floor of disc with a prominent convexity just in front of the middle, not visible in side-view, being concealed by the strongly upturned lateral rim of the disc. The latter finely crenulate, not conspicuously upturned posteriorly nor overhanging the flat occiput. Clypeal sutures not evident. Eyes rather flat, scarcely visible from above. Antennal scrobe reaching the eye. Inferior border of cheeks marginate, extending back to the likewise marginate and bluntly dentate occipital lobes. Floors of disc and sides of head coarsely and densely reticulate rugose with deeply impressed and rather irregular pits within the meshes. Gular face less coarsely sculptured, areolate-rugose, the intervals between the shallower foveolae being blunt, not forming sharp and raised ridges.

Thorax opaque, finely reticulate-punctate. Pronotum greatly expanded laterad, the anterior angle of the expansion dentate, followed by a short blunt lobe in front of the prominent, mesially interrupted transverse pronotal crest. Pronotum not excavate laterally in front of crest. Promesonotal suture vestigial, not impressed. Mesonotum rather flat in both directions, each side with a projecting and broadly rounded lobe. Mesoepinotal suture impressed. Basal face of epinotum transversely convex with a short blunt, lateral lobe and a subacute, upturned posterior tooth. Declivous face shallowly excavate, laterally submarginate, lacking macro-sculpture. Femora fusiform. Dorsum of thorax reticulate-rugose and foveolate, but the sculpture is not as coarse as on cephalic disc. Sides of thorax similarly sculptured, but the foveolae are more elongate and shallower, the horizontal rugae becoming gradually more prominent toward the bottom. Extensor face of femora lightly reticulate-rugose.

Petiole and postpetiole opaque, irregularly reticulate-rugose and foveolate, each segment bearing laterally a beaklike appendage, pointing backwards and, on the postpetiole, also slightly upwards. Petiole with a subvertical anterior face distinet from the horizontal upper face. Postpetiole, in profile, strongly convex with a dorsal peak formed by a pair of tumuli. Gaster subopaque, elongate, about 1.5 times as long as broad, anterolaterally strongly lobate, the lobes immarginate. Tergum I finely reticulate-punctate and covered with sparse and shallow foveolae, becoming superficial to obsolete towards the rear. Sternum I superficially areolate-rugose.

Gular face of head, thorax, pedicel and legs with golden decumbent or appressed, elongate, canaliculate, scalelike hairs. The same hairs on anterior end of gaster, becoming gradually finer and shorter toward the rear. Cephalic disc, sides of head, and anterior portion of pronotum in front of transverse crest with thick, recurved or suberect short hairs, which lack the metallic sheen. Hairs in pits on cephalic disc do not project beyond the rim of the foveolae from which they arise. Rim of cephalic disc laterally with a few widely spaced very short and blunt projecting hairs.

de Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) - Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 10.12-10.56; HL 2.60-2.64; HW 2.72-2.76; EL 0.44-0.48; PW 2.56-2.64; PeW 0.91-1.00; PpW l.04-1.10; HBaL 0.68-0.70; HBaW 0.20-0.22; CI 104.5-104.6; PI 104.5-106.2; PPeI 264.0-281.3; PPpI 240.0-246.1; HBaI 29.4-31.4.


de Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) - Head subquadrate, with disc. Anterior two-thirds of the head concave; posterior third almost flat. Frontal carinae with crenulate margin, broadly expanded anteriorly, with raised border, converging posteriorly and connected by a convex ridge on the vertex. Vertexal angles round and with clearly differentiate margin. Eyes convex and partially hidden by the disc in dorsal view. Anterior clypeal border concave. Mandibles laterally carinate and partially hidden by the frontal carinae.

Mesosoma dorsally flat in profile. Humeral angles with an obtuse tooth anteriorly, straight posteriorly. Pronotal crest superficially marked and interrupted in the middle. Promesonotal suture impressed. Propodeum with differentiate basal and declivous faces; basal face weakly convex laterally and ending in a stout, obtuse tooth slightly curved laterally; sides of the declivous face converging posteriorly.

Petiole with distinct anterior and posterior faces; anterior face almost vertical and bearing a pair of lateral denticles dorsally; posterior face sloping posteriorly. Petiolar sides with a small denticle medially. Postpetiole broadly convex and with a superficial concavity in the middle; postpetiolar spines broad, with pointed tip, arising from the anterior border of the postpetiole and gently curved backwards.

Legs. Mid and hind femora not angulate nor denticulate. Mid and hind tarsi not flattened laterally and without broad base.

Gaster with broad, anteriorly protruding lobes.

Sculpture. Head dorsum superficially punctate and covered with dense, broad, deep, irregular foveae diminishing in size anteriorly. Mesonotum and pedicel minutely microsculptured and with dense foveae with thick margins, the foveae smaller on the upper mesopleurae and the pedicel. Declivous face of the propodeum, gaster, legs and upper metapleurae reticulate; the same sculpture but less impressed on the first gastral sternite. Outer face of the tibiae with oval and superficial foveae.

Pilosity. Body with five types of hairs: (1) suberect, clubbed hairs arising from each fovea of the head dorsum and pronotum; (2) hairs similar to the type (1) but subdecumbent on the ventral part of the head; (3) mesonotum, scutellum, propodeum, pedicel, legs and gaster with appressed, slightly clubbed hairs, shorter on the gaster and legs, denser on the outer face of the legs; (4) variably clubbed, erect, sparse hairs, long on the ventral part of the first gastral sternite, longer on the border of the tergites and sternites, short and rare on first gastral tergite; (5) truncate, long, rare hairs on the posterior border of the sternites.

Colour. Head dorsally and laterally light orange, with lighter frontal carinae. Head ventrally, meso- and metapleurae, ventral part of the propleurae and scutellum brown. Lateral part of the pronotal dorsum, dorsal half of the propleurae and outer face of the femora light orange. Center of the pronotum and mesonotum light brown with yellow-orange maculae. Propodeum, pedicel and legs reddish brown. Gaster ferrugineous and with two pairs of yellow spots: the first pair oval and on the anterior lobes and the second one, round, before the posterior border of the first gastral tergite.

Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 11.66; HL 2.32; HW 2.40; EL 0.41; PW 2.28; PeW 1.02; PpW 1.20; HBaL 0.72; HBaW 0.22; CI 103.4; PI 105.3; PPeI 223.5; PPpI 190.0; HBaI 31.4.

Type Material

de Andrade and Baroni Urbani (1999) - Soldier, gyne. Type locality: Rio Salado and Rio Dulce, both near Icano (Santiago del Estero, Argentina). Type material: the lectotype soldier selected by Kempf, 1964 b: 252 cannot be found in the Naturhistorisches Museum, Basel, one syntype soldier from Rio Dulce in NHMB (examined), one syntype soldier labelled: “Chaco de Santiago del Estero, Bords du Rio Salado, Env. D'Icano, E. R. Wagner, 1914. Type unique. Cryptocerus prodigiosus Sant., soldier, type, Santschi det. 1921” (examined); one syntype gyne, same label as the second paratype soldier but differing in the date of collection: 1910. Cryptocerus prodigiosus Sant., gyne, type, Santschi det. 1921 (examined), both paratypes in Musee National d'Histoire Naturelle.


  • Brandão, C. R. F. 1991. Adendos ao catálogo abreviado das formigas da região Neotropical (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Rev. Bras. Entomol. 35: 319-412 (page 388, Combination in Zacryptocerus)
  • de Andrade, M. L.; Baroni Urbani, C. 1999. Diversity and adaptation in the ant genus Cephalotes, past and present. Stuttgarter Beitrage zur Naturkunde Series B (Geolgie and Palaontologie). 271:1-889.(page 675, Combination in Cephalotes)
  • Kempf, W. W. 1958a. New studies of the ant tribe Cephalotini (Hym. Formicidae). Stud. Entomol. (n.s.) 1: 1-168 (page 49, Combination in Paracryptocerus (Harnedia))
  • Kempf, W. W. 1964b. Additions to the knowledge of the Cephalotini ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Pap. Avulsos Zool. (Sa~o Paulo) 16: 243-255 (page 252, see also)
  • Oliveira, A.M., Powell, S., Feitosa, R.M. 2021. A taxonomic study of the Brazilian turtle ants (Formicidae: Myrmicinae: Cephalotes). Revista Brasileira de Entomologia 65, e20210028 (doi:10.1590/1806-9665-rbent-2021-0028).
  • Santschi, F. 1921h. Quelques nouveaux Cryptocerus de l'Argentine et pays voisins. An. Soc. Cient. Argent. 92: 124-128 (page 124, soldier, queen described)

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Bestelmeyer B. T., and J. A. Wiens. 1996. The Effects of Land Use on the Structure of Ground-Foraging Ant Communities in the Argentine Chaco. Ecological Applications 6(4): 1225-40.
  • Brandao, C.R.F. 1991. Adendos ao catalogo abreviado das formigas da regiao neotropical (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Rev. Bras. Entomol. 35: 319-412.
  • Cuezzo, F. 1998. Formicidae. Chapter 42 in Morrone J.J., and S. Coscaron (dirs) Biodiversidad de artropodos argentinos: una perspectiva biotaxonomica Ediciones Sur, La Plata. Pages 452-462.
  • Kempf W. W. 1964. Additions to the knowledge of the Cephalotini ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Papeis Avulsos de Zoologia (São Paulo) 16: 243-255.
  • Kempf, W.W. 1972. Catalago abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical (Hym. Formicidae) Studia Entomologica 15(1-4).
  • Santschi F. 1921. Quelques nouveaux Cryptocerus de l'Argentine et pays voisins. Anales de la Sociedad Cientifica Argentina 92: 124-128.
  • de Andrade, M.L. & C. Baroni Urbani. 1999. Diversity and Adaptation in the ant genus Cephalotes, past and present. Stuttgarter Beitrage zur Naturkunde Serie B 271. 893 pages, Stuttgart