AntWiki: The Ants --- Online
Revision as of 04:36, 25 November 2021 by SShattuck (talk | contribs) (Add references from PDF.)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Temporal range: 20.43–0 Ma Early Miocene – Recent
Leptogenys falcigera
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Alliance: Odontomachus genus group
Genus: Leptogenys
Roger, 1861
Type species
Leptogenys falcigera
329 species
1 fossil species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)

Leptogenys falcigera casent0003814 profile 1.jpg

Leptogenys falcigera

Leptogenys falcigera casent0003814 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Evolutionary Relationships















Cryptopone hartwigi














Mesoponera melanaria









Cryptopone gilva, testacea








Mesoponera ambigua


Relationships among genera of the ant subfamily Ponerinae (extant taxa only, except Dolioponera, Feroponera and Iroponera) based on Schmidt & Shattuck (2014) and Longino & Branstetter (2020).

A widely ranging tropical genus represented by more than 300 species. Many species form small colonies (<50 workers) and are primarily specialised predators on oniscoid isopods, although there have been reports on other prey such as earwigs or termites (Bolton 1975; Steghaus-Kovac & Maschwitz 1993; Dejean 1997; Dejean & Evraerts 1997). Fast moving workers, with many species foraging at night. Nests are typically made in the leaf litter, soil, rotten wood, or occasionally in vegetation. Some Australasian and Oriental species have evolved an army ant lifestyle and are generalists (Witte & Maschwitz 2000).

With the exception of Leptogenys langi and Leptogenys nigricans where winged queens exist, most species of Leptogenys have ergatoid (permanently wingless) queens and colonies are monogynous. A few species (e.g. Leptogenys schwabi) have gamergates (mated egg-laying workers). The existence of wingless reproductives with two distinct morphologies (ergatoid queens and gamergates) provides a research opportunity to assess the selective pressures responsible for modifications in reproductive investment associated with colony fission/depended colony foundation.

At a Glance • Ergatoid queen  • Gamergate  


Photo Gallery

  • Christian Peeters and Riou Mizuno (a student of Fuminori Ito) studying a bluish Leptogenys in dipterocarp forests close to the Thai-Burmese border. Photo by Christian Peeters.
  • Christian Peeters and Riou Mizuno (a student of Fuminori Ito) studying a bluish Leptogenys in dipterocarp forests close to the Thai-Burmese border. Photo by Christian Peeters.
  • Christian Peeters and Riou Mizuno (a student of Fuminori Ito) studying a bluish Leptogenys in dipterocarp forests close to the Thai-Burmese border. Photo by Christian Peeters.
  • Christian Peeters and Riou Mizuno (a student of Fuminori Ito) studying a bluish Leptogenys in dipterocarp forests close to the Thai-Burmese border. Photo by Christian Peeters.
  • Leptogenys worker with prey. Photo by Philipp Hönle.


Lattke (2011) - The apparent monophyly of Leptogenys is nowadays not questioned, probably due to several outstanding characters that qualify as apomorphies when compared with other ponerines. Besides the traditional pectinate claws and carinate median clypeal lobe, additional characters useful for separating this genus from other Ponerini may be considered: the presence of a basal protarsal comb is common in the most Ponerini, but is lost in Leptogenys. In Pachycondyla impressa the anterior tentorial pit is located close to the antennal sclerite whilst in Leptogenys it is quite separated. The tentorial pit in Myopias has a similar location to Leptogenys, and the two also share the presence of a median clypeal lobe and basal mandibular sulcus. The clypeal lobe in Myopias is usually subquadrate to rectangular, thicker and opaque throughout when compared with Leptogenys. Additionally there are Myopias species lacking the lobe, all suggesting this lobe is not homologous for the two groups. Presence of the basal mandibular sulcus is considered a plesiomorphic character (Schmidt 2009, in thesis). The relative situation of the tentorial pit should studied in other ponerines.

Many Leptogenys species have been placed into region specific species-groups: New World species groups, Oriental and Australian species groups and Malagasy species groups.

AntWeb icon 02.png See images of species within this genus

Keys including this Genus


Keys to Species in this Genus


Leptogenys is abundant and species-rich throughout the tropical regions of the world, and to a lesser extent the subtropical regions (Wheeler, 1922b; Bolton, 1975a). Some members of the L. maxillosa species group are widely-distributed tramp species (Bolton, 1975a). Leptogenys falcigera, for example, was one of the first ants introduced to the Hawaiian Islands (Kirschenbaum & Grace, 2007).

Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps


Fossils are known from: Shanwang, China (Early Miocene).

Modified from Lattke (2011) – Most New World species seem to have relatively modest, localized ranges, usually smaller than those observed in other Ponerini. None have a range that extensively includes both North and South America, or most of either continent such as the case for some species in Pachycondyla, Hypoponera, or Odontomachus. The species with the largest ranges almost all include the Orinoco-Amazon watershed as the core area of their distribution, with the most widely ranging species, Leptogenys famelica and Leptogenys unistimulosa, extending marginally into Colombia and

Leptogenys sp., Borneo. Steve Shattuck, 2012

Central America, and Leptogenys arcuata including some records from the Caribbean. L. arcuata may eventually prove to be more than a single species and the pubiceps complex, found throughout the Caribbean is most certainly a collection of species. Save for Leptogenys langi and Leptogenys nigricans, the species with the most extensive distributions are found outside of the pusilla clade. L. langi has winged queens and L. nigricans queens have a full set of sclerites associated with flight but it is unknown if their wings are functional.

African Leptogenys also suggest a similar pattern of reduced geographic ranges (Bolton 1975). The only exceptions to this are tramp species such as Leptogenys falcigera, Leptogenys maxillosa, and Leptogenys pavesii, which now enjoy a human mediated pantropical distribution (Bolton 1975), and Australasian Leptogenys with army ant behavior. Leptogenys diminuta, for example, ranges from Ceylon and India eastward into Melanesia and Queensland, Australia (Wilson 1958; Shattuck 1999). “True” army ants, despite possessing wingless queens, have far ranging geographic distributions (Kempf 1972; Watkins 1976). Presumably in these cases the nomadic life-style of the species has contributed to overcoming the apparent dispersal and colonization limitations of wingless queens (Peeters 2001) that conceivably make it more difficult to cross unsuitable habitat than in species with winged queens. Males in Leptogenys are not particularly robust and do not seem strong fliers, nor would be expected to fly very far since potential mates must be sought at ground level in forests. Male production per colony is probably not very high given the modest nest sizes in the genus, and the scant number of males seen in colonies collected by the author. With few exceptions males were not considered in this study, but a cursory look at the unidentified Leptogenys males in MIZA attracted to light traps show that in some places the number of flying males can be considerable. It remains to be seen if the males from a single light trap collection event are all from one nest or from several nests. If we add to this the frequent specializations in prey and habitat, and a highly diverse fauna with the certainty that this revision has missed a significant amount of species, it seems likely Leptogenys populations are more likely to be affected by potential vicariant processes than more mobile and less specialized species of other ponerine genera (Schmidt 2009, in thesis).

Habitat and Abundance

Modified from Lattke (2011) – In the New World Leptogenys may be locally abundant in some areas, which are usually of humid forest and with an abundance of isopod prey. In such an area direct collecting may uncover up to 5 or more nests in a single day, usually of the same species. Personal observations in at least 3 Venezuelan collecting localities with notably abundant Leptogenys colonies coincided with abundant isopod populations as evidenced by the scattering of numerous of these crustaceans upon treading the leaf litter late afternoon and early evening. Dejean (1997) confirms the pattern of abundant Leptogenys colonies in areas with an elevated presence of isopods in Mexico and Cameroon, even in anthropized areas. Collections during several years in single localities, such as La Selva in Costa Rica or Rancho Grande in Venezuela, indicate that as many as 5 – 6 species may be present in a given locality.

Nests may be found from ground level to higher than 2000 m above sea level, though most are lowland dwellers.

Even though these ants are more common in mesic habitats, they are no strangers to arid, desert conditions, with a number of species endemic to xeric areas such as Baja California (Leptogenys peninsularis), the Sonora desert (Leptogenys sonora), or the Galapagos Islands (Leptogenys santacruzi, Leptogenys cf. gorgona). The dry, interior part of Australia is also habitat for a number of Leptogenys species (Shattuck 1999), and several species of Leptogenys are known from semiarid parts of Africa (Bolton 1975). One species has been found deep in two caves in Laos, both caves being rich in guano and isopods (Roncin & Deharveng 2003).

Two species (Leptogenys khammouanensis and Leptogenys elongata) have been found in caves.


Rakotonirina and Fisher (2014) - The genus has attracted attention due to its wide variety of social organizations and colony structures (Davies et al. 1994; Ito 1996) as well as its remarkably diverse range of behaviors (e.g. Maschwitz & Schrnegge 1983; Maschwitz et al. 1989; Steghaus-Kovac & Maschwitz 1993; Dejean & Evraerts 1997; Hlaváè & Janda 2009). Leptogenys range from large-eyed epigaeic species to small-eyed cryptobiotic species that inhabit the soil layers or forage through the leaf litter. Such variation occurs across the geographical distribution of the genus. Malagasy Leptogenys - Recent surveys of arthropods in the Malagasy region uncovered a wealth of new species and showed that Leptogenys is one of the dominant ponerine ants widely distributed across all types of forest habitats. Workers are usually found foraging on the forest floor or in the leaf litter and only rarely on vegetation. They nest terrestrially under the soil, rocks, logs, or rootmat ground layers and in rotten logs, branches, in rotting bamboo, and rotten tree stumps. Most of the Malagasy species are endemic to Madagascar. In all Malagasy species, winged queens are absent, which limits their ability to disperse across the complex topography and various ecological barriers in the region. In the absence of alate queens, reproduction of Leptogenys in the region may be by fission, which enhances population viscosity and may result in important morphological variation across a species' geographic range. Though queens do not fly, males of Leptogenys are alate and are one of the most frequently collected ant genera in Malaise traps throughout Madagascar. Leptogenys exhibits a wide range of phenotypic diversity segregated both among spatially isolated habitats and along continuous environmental gradients.

Leptogenys sp., Borneo. Steve Shattuck, 2012

The following synopsis of the biology of Leptogenys is based on Lattke (2011), who in turn based much of his account on Schmidt’s unpublished thesis work (Schmidt 2009).

Colony Attributes

Nests of New World Leptogenys may vary from 20 to 30 workers, rarely surpassing 50 (pers. obs). Small nest sizes (30 <) are also reported for over 15 species of this genus in the Oriental Tropics by Ito (2000) with the outstanding exception of some SE Asian Leptogenys with army ant habits, which have colonies numbering in the thousands (Witte & Maschwitz 2000). During the course of this study no evidence was found hinting at army ant habits in any of the New World Leptogenys.

Nesting Habits

The nests may be found in rotten wood on the ground, usually within cavities in logs or large branches, and also beneath bark. The wood-soil and rock-soil interfaces are also used for nesting, as well as rock crevices, and a few may nest directly in the soil such as Leptogenys famelica. Some species may be adapted to disturbed areas, such as the pantropical tramp Leptogenys maxillosa, which has been found nesting in cracks and fissures of buildings in urban areas in Brazil (Freitas 1995). Nest entrances of the larger ground nesting species may be recognized by the scattered exoskeletons of isopod prey discarded from the nest, At least one species, Leptogenys elegans Bolton, 1975 from West Africa, will nest in dead wood above the ground and forage on tree-trunks (Bolton 1975). Dejean & Olmsted (1995) report 4 species of Leptogenys (Leptogenys donisthorpei, Leptogenys maya, Leptogenys sianka, Leptogenys wheeleri) nesting in epiphytic bromeliads and orchids in inundated forests in northern Yucatan. This record is of interest due to the arboreal nest sites, a situation unknown for any other New World species of the genus, and rarely encountered in other faunas (Bolton 1975). The Reserva Sian Ka’an site is lowland forest flooded with 20 – 60 cm of water, a situation discouraging the establishment of nests on the ground, but the rich epiphytic flora has created a suspended soil and is home to abundant isopods. At least three of the aformentioned Leptogenys species have also been found nesting on the ground (see species accounts) so there is no evidence yet for obligate arboreal Leptogenys, at least for the New World fauna. In this reserve Dejean (pers. comm.) frequently found Leptogenys in mangroves on the brackish water lagoon side of the stands, but not on the oceanic side.

Leptogenys sp., Borneo. Steve Shattuck, 2012


Specialized predation seems to dominate in this genus, with observations throughout its range corroborating oniscoid isopods as the prey of choice for most species (Dejean & Evraerts 1997; Dejean 1997). That a group of ants should specialise on oniscideans should come as no surprise as these crustaceans frequently constitute an important part of the soil fauna with population densities reaching in the hundreds per square meter (Quadros & Araujo 2008). The earliest known fossils of oniscideans are from Baltic Amber, with fossils also known from the lower Miocene of Kenya and Dominican Amber as well. The earliest known remains of other crustaceans within the Scutocoxifera, in which terrestrial isopods are included, range from the Middle to Upper Jurassic (Schmidt 2008), implying the existence of a diverse terrestrial isopod fauna before the major radiation in Leptogenys (Schmidt 2009, in thesis). Other predatory specializations have been detected such as earwigs (Steghaus-Kovac & Maschwitz 1993) for an Oriental species and termite predation for the African nitida group (Bolton 1975), and also for Leptogenys unistimulosa in Brazil (Mill 1982). In Cambodia and Thailand, Leptogenys cyanicatena specialize on a broad range of millipedes, and workers link together as chains to retrieve the larger millipedes. The Oriental species that follow an army ant lifestyle are generalists, taking diverse prey (Witte & Maschwitz 2000). Individuals in the larger species carry isopod prey slung beneath their bodies, between the legs, and smaller species will carry large prey items amongst several individuals. In Costa Rica a group of workers of Leptogenys volcanica were observed and photographed carrying an isopod considerably larger than the size of each individual ant, suggesting either group raiding (E. Rodríguez, D. Kronauer, pers. comm.), or perhaps recruitment to a victim disabled by one original worker (B. Bolton, pers. comm.). Duncan & Crewe (1993) report both individual foraging and group raiding amongst South African species of Leptogenys. Dejean & Evraerts (1997) also report group raiding in the genus.

Reproduction and castes

The most common mode of reproduction in the genus is dependent colony foundation (DCF, Life History) through ergatoid queens (Ito 1997; Ito & Ohkawara 2000), although gamergates (egg-laying workers) are involved in a minority of species. The queen in Leptogenys is generally ergatoid, and only in three New World species are “normal” winged queens found: Leptogenys langi, Leptogenys nigricans, and an undescribed species of Leptogenys collected in Texas (Cokendolpher et al. 2009). The latter apparently is a member of the pusilla clade judging from the images illustrating the publication. Wingless queens, but with well-developed flight sclerites and ocelli are also known for Leptogenys ergatogyna in Africa (Bolton 1975). Ergatoid queens generally lack any trace of ocelli, though when present it is a single, somewhat reduced median ocellus. The gaster is usually larger in comparison to the workers, the petiolar node, when seen dorsally, is generally wider than long, and the propodeal margin is more convex when observed laterally than in the worker. Additional characters that may characterize queens are larger overall body dimensions, broader head with more convex sides when seen in full-face view, and the compound eyes may be slightly larger.

Leptogenys sp., Borneo. Steve Shattuck, 2012

At least three species belonging to the pusilla group: Leptogenys pusilla, Leptogenys ritae, and Leptogenys josephi have ergatoid queens with greatly swollen mandibles of a pale yellow color. This unusual character was first reported for L. josephi by MacKay & MacKay (2004), and was thought to be diagnostic for the species. The only queens so far known for L. josephi and L. pusilla are of the enlarged mandibular type, whilst in L. ritae normal mandibulate queens as well as swollen mandibulate queens have been found. The first two species are sympatric in Central America, with L. ritae perhaps having some sympatry with the other two in Panama, though it is mostly distributed throughout northern South America, including Trinidad. The possibility exists the two queens may correspond to different species. Not only is the purpose of the unusual mandibles a mystery, but also the nature of the relation between the two forms. Perhaps the enlarged mandibles harbour hypertrophied glands. It should also be noted that the gaster of the queen of these species is comparatively larger than in most other Leptogenys queens. The morphology of these queens is not unlike that of dichthadiiform queens of nomadic species such as Simopelta or ecitonines on account of the enlarged gaster and modified mandibles, but no New World species are known to have an army ant lifestyle.

Reproduction by workers is suspected in all species of at least 3 species groups (arcuata, ingens, and unistimulosa) and in one species each of two groups, Leptogenys famelica of the famelica group and Leptogenys gaigei of the luederwaldti group. This possibility is based on the total lack of recognizable queens in these species despite the repeated collection of many nests. Gamergate reproduction could be more widespread in Leptogenys as indicated by Bolton’s (1975) observation that out of the 56 species known for the Ethiopian Region, females are known for only 6 or 7. Freitas (1995) reported males copulating with “workers” just outside the nests of Leptogenys maxillosa, and never observed winged queens during nuptial flights or nest relocation events. In a survey of 11 species from Malaysia and Indonesia, Ito (1997) found gamergates in 4 species, with the rest having ergatoid queens.

Leptogenys sp., Borneo. Steve Shattuck, 2012

The occurrence of either ergatoid queens or gamergates indicate that colonies reproduce by fission (DCF). While most nests apparently are monogynous, nests have been found with two or more queens in Leptogenys ritae and Leptogenys orchidioides (see individual species accounts). A small, apparently incipient, nest of approximately 3 queens and 4 workers was found in L. ritae (R. Johnson, pers. comm.), suggesting polygyny. Perhaps some of the nest series represent virgin queens that have yet to leave the nest, indicating that several virgin queens may accumulate in the nest before dispersing. Field observations are scarce, but young queens presumably leave the maternal colony together with nestmate workers. Colony fission, as in ecitonine army ants, is known for the army ant lifestyle diminuta group in SE Asia (Ito & Ohkawara 2000).

Associations with other Organisms

Beyond the specialized diet of many species (see Foraging/Diet section above), numerous other insects have been found associated with Leptogenys. A phorid fly of the genus Megaselia has been reported attacking Leptogenys mutabilis in Borneo (Disney & Fayle 2008). Pheidole megacephala, a common invasive ant in the tropics, has been scored in laboratory experiments (Dejean et al. 2008) as an effective enemy of Leptogenys, killing off colonies of a native species of Leptogenys in Cameroon, sometimes in less than a hour, as well as Leptogenys elongata from Mexico. A diverse number of symbionts have been recorded for army ant Leptogenys, including the only known molluscan myrmecophile in Leptogenys processionalis distinguenda (Witte et al. 2002).

Flight Period

All Flight Records for Genus

Explore Data: All, Drilldown
Click here to show/hide flight data.
Taxon Month Source Notes
Leptogenys elongata May, Jun antkeeping.info; Alex Wild photo
Leptogenys punctaticeps Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Kaspari et al., 2001

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 10-50000 (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Compound colony type: not parasitic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Nest site: hypogaeic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Diet class: predator (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging stratum: subterranean/leaf litter (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging behaviour: cooperative (Greer et al., 2021)



Worker Morphology

 • Eyes: >100 ommatidia • Pronotal Spines: absent • Mesonotal Spines: absent • Propodeal Spines: absent • Petiolar Spines: absent • Caste: none or weak • Sting: present • Metaplural Gland: present • Cocoon: present


Species Uncertain

  • Leptogenys sp.3: n = 24, 2n = 48 (Malaysia) (Imai et al., 1983; Mariano et al., 2015).
  • Leptogenys sp.5: n = 15, 2n = 30 (India) (Imai et al., 1984; Mariano et al., 2015) (near Leptogenys peugueti).
  • Leptogenys: n = 27, 2n = 54 (Sarawak) (Tjan et al., 1986; Mariano et al., 2015).

All Karyotype Records for Genus

Explore Data: All, Drilldown
Click here to show/hide karyotype data.
Taxon Haploid Diploid Karyotype Locality Source Notes
Leptogenys 15 30 India Imai et al., 1984; Mariano et al., 2015 near ''Leptogenys peugueti''
Leptogenys 24 48 Malaysia Imai et al., 1983; Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys 27 54 Sarawak Tjan et al., 1986; Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys borneensis 23 46 Malaysia Imai et al., 1983; Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys diminuta 16 32 Indonesia Imai et al., 1985; Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys diminuta 19 38 India; Malaysia Goni et al., 1982; Imai et al., 1983; Imai et al., 1984; Mariano et al., 2015 in Gona et al. 1982 as ''Leptogenys'' sp.1
Leptogenys hysterica 13 26 India Imai et al., 1984; Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys iridescens 23 46 Indonesia; Malaysia; Sarawak Imai et al., 1983; Imai et al., 1985; Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys kraepelini 13 26 Indonesia Imai et al., 1985; Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys myops 24 48 Indonesia; Malaysia; Sarawak Goni et al., 1982; Imai et al., 1983; Imai et al., 1985; Tjan et al., 1986; Mariano et al., 2015 in Gona et al. 1982 as ''Leptogenys'' sp.2
Leptogenys peuqueti 26 52 India Imai et al., 1984; Mariano et al., 2015 as ''Leptogenys minchini''
Leptogenys peuqueti 27 54 Indonesia Imai et al., 1985; Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys processionalis 23 46 India Imai et al., 1984; Mariano et al., 2015 as ''Leptogenys ocellifera''
Leptogenys unistimulosa 21 42 Brazil Mariano et al., 2015
Leptogenys vogeli 15 30 Brazil Mariano et al., 2015


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

  • LEPTOGENYS [Ponerinae: Ponerini]
    • Leptogenys Roger, 1861a: 41. Type-species: Leptogenys falcigera, by subsequent designation of Bingham, 1903: 52.
    • Leptogenys senior synonym of Microbolbos: Wilson, 1955b: 136.
    • Leptogenys senior synonym of Dorylozelus: Taylor, 1969: 132.
    • Leptogenys senior synonym of Machaerogenys, Lobopelta: Bolton, 1975a: 240.
    • Leptogenys senior synonym of Odontopelta: Snelling, R.R. 1981: 390; Taylor & Brown, D.R. 1985: 32.
    • Leptogenys senior synonym of Prionogenys: Taylor, 1988: 33.
  • DORYLOZELUS [junior synonym of Leptogenys]
    • Dorylozelus Forel, 1915b: 24. Type-species: Dorylozelus mjobergi (junior secondary homonym in Leptogenys, replaced by Leptogenys tricosa), by monotypy.
    • Dorylozelus junior synonym of Leptogenys: Taylor, 1969: 132.
  • LOBOPELTA [junior synonym of Leptogenys]
    • Lobopelta Mayr, 1862: 733. Type-species: Ponera diminuta, by subsequent designation of Bingham, 1903: 54.
    • Lobopelta subgenus of Leptogenys: Forel, 1892k: 520.
    • Lobopelta revived status as genus: Dalla Torre, 1893: 43; maintained as genus: Bingham, 1903: 54.
    • Lobopelta junior synonym of Leptogenys: Emery, 1896e: 177 (footnote)
    • Lobopelta revived from synonymy as subgenus of Leptogenys: Forel, 1899c: 18; Forel, 1900d: 304; maintained as subgenus: Wheeler, W.M. 1910g: 135; Emery, 1911d: 101; Forel, 1917: 238; Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 653; Creighton, 1950a: 50; Kempf, 1972a: 131.
    • Lobopelta junior synonym of Leptogenys: Bolton, 1975a: 240.
  • MACHAEROGENYS [junior synonym of Leptogenys]
    • Machaerogenys Emery, 1911d: 100 [as subgenus of Leptogenys]. Type-species: Leptogenys truncatirostris, by original designation.
    • Machaerogenys junior synonym of Leptogenys: Bolton, 1975a: 240.
  • MICROBOLBOS [junior synonym of Leptogenys]
    • Microbolbos Donisthorpe, 1948f: 170. Type-species: Microbolbos testaceus, by original designation.
    • Microbolbos junior synonym of Leptogenys: Wilson, 1955b: 136.
  • ODONTOPELTA [junior synonym of Leptogenys]
    • Odontopelta Emery, 1911d: 101 [as subgenus of Leptogenys]. Type-species: Leptogenys turneri, by monotypy.
    • Odontopelta junior synonym of Leptogenys: Taylor & Brown, D.R. 1985: 32.
  • PRIONOGENYS [junior synonym of Leptogenys]
    • Prionogenys Emery, 1895g: 348. Type-species: Prionogenys podenzanai, by monotypy.
    • Prionogenys junior synonym of Leptogenys: Taylor, 1988: 33.

Taxonomic Notes

Lattke (2011) - The genus Leptogenys as presently defined stems most recently from Bolton’s (1975) revision of the fauna from the Ethiopian Region and Madagascar. The generic worker diagnosis given below was taken using only New World species into account, and comparing with Bolton (1975). In a revisionary study of the ponerine genera based on molecular markers, Schmidt (2009, in thesis) found unequivocal molecular evidence for grouping Leptogenys along with 17 other genera into a monophyletic entity called the Odontomachus group, mostly of Old World distribution but with many species of Leptogenys, Anochetus and Odontomachus present in the New World. Within this group, Myopias is considered sister to Leptogenys, with evidence for both genera constituting one part of the basalmost divergence in the group, and the remaining genera the other part. Schmidt (2009, in thesis) argues for an Old World diversification of the Odontomachus group with age estimates ranging from 22 – 40 my according to diverse constraints, with a preferred estimate of 30 (38 – 24) my. The major radiations in Leptogenys have occured with an estimated crown age of 32 my (Schmidt 2009, in thesis). Examination of a few random Paleotropical species show character states not seen in New World Leptogenys such as a heavily dentate mandible, scale-like petiole, frontal lobe covering almost all of the antennal condyle or a moderately convex anterior clypeal margin. At least some traits are arguably plesiomorphic, thus lending a bit of morphological support to Schmidt’s conclusions based on molecular data



Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Small to large (TL 2.1–14.5 mm) slender ants with the standard characters of Ponerini. Mandibles subtriangular to curvilinear, often without a distinct basal margin, usually lacking teeth except for a single large apical tooth (mandibles with multiple teeth in the L. processionalis group), and articulating with the head at the extreme anterolateral corners of the head; mandibles sometimes with a basal groove. Anterior margin of clypeus angular, with a blunt or sharp point medially, and usually longitudinally carinate medially; sometimes with a narrow blunt lobe medially and a sharp tooth to each side. Frontal lobes small. Eyes small to large, placed at or anterior to head midline. Metanotal groove shallowly to deeply impressed. Propodeum broad to moderately narrowed dorsally. Propodeal spiracles usually small and round, though occasionally a short slit. Tarsal claws usually pectinate, though sometimes with only four or fewer teeth and very rarely simple. Metatibial spur formula (1s, 1p). Petiole usually nodiform (more squamiform in the L. processionalis group), though variable in shape. Girdling constriction between pre- and postsclerites of A4 apparent (less pronounced in the L. processionalis group, absent in many species of the L. guineensis and L. stuhlmanni groups). Stridulitrum present on pretergite of A4. Hypopygium occasionally with a row of stout setae on either side of the sting. Head and body usually shining, though often punctate, foveolate, striate, or rugoreticulate. Head and body with scattered to abundant pilosity, and usually no pubescence. Color variable, testaceous to black.

Lattke (2011), New World. Head shape ranges from elongate to wider than long in full-face view; vertexal carina present, usually visible from cephalic full-face view; compound eye usually situated anterad of mid-cephalic length, occasionally at mid-length, usually dorsolaterally situated on head; eye diameter may be very reduced, just a few ommatidia, to very large and prominent, its length covering more than one-third the lateral cephalic margin with the head in full-face view. Mandible variously shaped, either triangular or subtriangular, frequently elongate with subparallel internal and external margins, also falcate and incapable of closing against clypeus; masticatory margin usually shorter than basal margin, generally edentate or nearly so; rarely masticatory margin crenulate or with series of blunt denticles; apical tooth usually present, mandible usually with laterobasal sulcus. Clypeus relatively long with median portion of clypeus projecting anterad as distinct, variously shaped, usually triangular lobe, with a median longitudinal crest extending from apex to level of frontal lobes, clypeus extends briefly posterad between frontal carinae as narrow wedge; clypeus with narrow carinae or lobe bordering anterolateral cephalic margin; frontoclypeal suture straight and transverse, tentorial pit closer to compound eye than to antennal sclerite. Labrum frequently with tubercles on external face; palp formula 4,4 or 4,3. Frontal lobe covers less than half antennal insertion, frontal carinae very brief; antennae 12-segmented, usually weakly incrassate; scape usually surpasses posterior cephalic margin, rarely shorter; funicular segments subcylindrical or moniliform.

Propleural lateral and ventral face separated by curvature, not carinate; pronotum never with carinate sides; mesopleuron with anepisternum and katepisternum usually indistinctly separated; propodeal spiracle separated from declivitous margin in lateral view by at least 3 diameters; mesopleural carinae usually distinct, sometimes weakly developed, especially ventrad; pronotal suture mobile; mesonotum always distinct; metanotal groove distinctly impressed, from shallow and fine to deep and wide, smooth or scrobiculate; mesometapleural suture distinct, scrobiculate, posterodorsal edge of mesopleuron forming a distinct ledge; metapleural-propodeal suture varies from indistinct to well impressed. Propodeum with or without lateral teeth or lobes, declivitous face usually with broad transverse sulcus next to insertion of postpetiole.

Posterior face of anteroventral petiolar process medianly concave; prora well developed, usually shaped as transverse crest or lobe; gaster usually smooth and shining, sometimes abdominal segments III – IV punctate; pretergite of abdominal segment IV with stridulitrum; constriction between abdominal segments III and IV ranging from weakly developed to well developed; pygidium with or without longitudial crest; hypopygidium usually with a row of small setae. Tibiae without setae on lateral or dorsal surface; protibial apex usually without setae apicad of insertion of strigil (except L. panops); first protarsal segment without comb of stout setae opposite strigil; strigil without velum at base (except L. gaigei and L. cuneata); mesotibial apex usually with one small seta on external face, sometimes absent or several setae present; metatibial apex usually lacking apical setae; claws usually pectinate (this state is reduced in minute species such as L. pusilla or L. gorgona with few or no preapical teeth), arolium absent; meso- and metatibial apex each with 2 apical spurs. General body color ranges from black to ferruginous; mandibles, clypeus, antennae, legs, and gastral apex usually lighter colored than head, mesosoma, and gaster; blue or purple opalescence present in some species; sculpture varies from smooth and shining to striate, or punctate.


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Usually ergatoid, flightless and very similar to the worker but with a broader petiole and larger gaster, and often vestigial ocelli; ergatoids also often differ from conspecific workers in various minor characters. The queens of one species (Leptogenys ergatogyna) are not ergatoid, but are still wingless; unlike other Leptogenys queens, they have the ocelli and thoracic modifications typical of alate ponerine queens (Wheeler, 1922b; Bolton, 1975a). The queens of at least one species, Leptogenys langi, are fully winged (Wheeler, 1923a). Queens are fully absent from at least a handful of species in which reproduction is performed by gamergate workers (Davies et al., 1994; Ito, 1997; Gobin et al., 2008).

Lattke (2011) Ergatoid queens generally lack any trace of ocelli, though when present it is a single, somewhat reduced median ocellus. The gaster is usually larger in comparison to the workers, the petiolar node, when seen dorsally, is generally wider than long, and the propodeal margin is more convex when observed laterally than in the worker. Reproduction by workers is suspected in all species of at least 3 species groups (arcuata, ingens, and unistimulosa) and in one species each of two groups, L. famelica of the famelica group and L. gaigei of the luederwaldti group. This possibility is based on the total lack of recognizable queens in these species despite the repeated collection of many nests. Gamergate reproduction could be more widespread in Leptogenys as indicated by Bolton’s (1975) observation that out of the 56 species known for the Ethiopian Region, females are known for only 6 or 7. Freitas (1995) reported males copulating with “workers” just outside the nests of L. maxillosa, and never observed winged queens during nuptial flights or nest relocation events. In a survey of 11 species from Malaysia and Indonesia, Ito (1997) found gamergates in 4 species, with the rest having ergatoid queens.


Yoshimura and Fisher (2007) Malagsy region - Males winged. Scrobe absent. Mandible reduced in size. Basal cavity of mandible extending to its front face and visible in full-face view. Notauli impressed on mesoscutum in most species. Mesepimeron bears distinct (epimeral) lobe posterodorsally, lobe covering mesothoracic spiracle and appearing to form isolated plate. Dorsolateral corner of petiole in anterior view without distinct projections. Dorsal margin of petiole in anterior view gently rounded, not forming a conical or pointed apex. Apical margin of abdominal tergum VIII occasionally featuring down-curved projection. Jugal lobe of hind wing absent in most species. Each middle and hind tibia with two spurs. Pretarsal claw multidentate to pectinate.

Additional descriptions can be found in Arnold (1915), Wheeler (1922b), and Bolton (1975a).


The larvae of various Leptogenys species have been described by Wheeler & Wheeler (1952, 1964, 1971a, 1974, 1976, 1986b) and Petralia & Vinson (1980).


  • Arnold, G. 1915. A monograph of the Formicidae of South Africa. Part I. Ponerinae, Dorylinae. Ann. S. Afr. Mus. 14: 1-159 (page 89, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • 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, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Barden, P. 2017. Fossil ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): ancient diversity and the rise of modern lineages. Myrmecological News 24: 1-30.
  • Beutel, R.G., Richter, A., Keller, R.A., Hita Garcia, F., Matsumura, Y., Economo, E.P., Gorb, S.N. 2020. Distal leg structures of the Aculeata (Hymenoptera): A comparative evolutionary study of (Sphecidae) and (Formicidae). Journal of Morphology 281, 737–753 (doi:10.1002/JMOR.21133).
  • Bingham, C. T. 1903. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Hymenoptera, Vol. II. Ants and Cuckoo-wasps. London: Taylor and Francis, 506 pp. (page 52, Type-species: Leptogenys falcigera, by subsequent designation)
  • Bolton, B. 1975a. A revision of the ant genus Leptogenys Roger (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Ethiopian region with a review of the Malagasy species. Bull. Br. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Entomol. 31: 235-305 (page 240, Leptogenys senior synonym of Macherogenys and Lobopelta, page 244, 293, Key to Afrotropical and Malagasy species)
  • Bolton, B. 1994. Identification guide to the ant genera of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 222 pp. (page 164, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 163, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1963a. Characters and synonymies among the genera of ants. Part III. Some members of the tribe Ponerini (Ponerinae, Formicidae). Breviora 190: 1-10 (page 3, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Chapman, J. W.; Capco, S. R. 1951. Check list of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Asia. Monogr. Inst. Sci. Technol. Manila 1: 1-327 (page 31, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 46, Leptogenys in Ponerinae)
  • Dlussky, G. M.; Fedoseeva, E. B. 1988. Origin and early stages of evolution in ants. Pp. 70-144 in: Ponomarenko, A. G. (ed.) Cretaceous biocenotic crisis and insect evolution. Moskva: Nauka, 232 pp. (page 78, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1943g. A list of the type-species of the genera and subgenera of the Formicidae. [part]. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 11(10): 617-688 (page 656, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Emery, C. 1895l. Die Gattung Dorylus Fab. und die systematische Eintheilung der Formiciden. Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 685-778 (page 767, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 97, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Fernandez, F., Guerrero, R.J., Sánchez-Restrepo, A.F. 2021. Sistemática y diversidad de las hormigas neotropicales. Revista Colombiana de Entomología 47, 1–20 (doi:10.25100/socolen.v47i1.11082).
  • Forel, A. 1893b. Sur la classification de la famille des Formicides, avec remarques synonymiques. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 37: 161-167 (page 162, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Forel, A. 1899b. Formicidae. [part]. Biol. Cent.-Am. Hym. 3: 1-24 (page 17, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Forel, A. 1900f. Les Formicides de l'Empire des Indes et de Ceylan. Part VII. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 13: 303-332 (page 304, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 238, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Gallardo, A. 1918c. Las hormigas de la República Argentina. Subfamilia Ponerinas. An. Mus. Nac. Hist. Nat. B. Aires 30: 1-112 (page 84, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Jaffe, K. 1993. El mundo de las hormigas. Baruta, Venezuela: Equinoccio (Ediciones de la Universidad Simón Bolívar), 188 pp. (page 8, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Kempf, W. W. 1972b. Catálogo abreviado das formigas da regia~o Neotropical. Stud. Entomol. 15: 3-344 (page 129, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Larabee, F.J., Suarez, A.V. 2014. The evolution and functional morphology of trap-jaw ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 20: 25-36.
  • Lattke, J. E. 2011. Revision of the New World species of the genus Leptogenys Roger (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae). Arthropod Systematics and Phylogeny 69:127-264. [2011-12-13] PDF
  • Mann, W. M. 1921. The ants of the Fiji Islands. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 64: 401-499 (page 426, Key to Fijian species)
  • Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 714, Leptogenys in Ponerinae (in key) [Poneridae])
  • Mayr, G. 1865. Formicidae. In: Reise der Österreichischen Fregatte "Novara" um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859. Zoologischer Theil. Bd. II. Abt. 1. Wien: K. Gerold's Sohn, 119 pp. (page 14, Leptogenys in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
  • Rakotonirina, J.C. & Fisher, B.L. 2014. Revision of the Malagasy ponerine ants of the genus Leptogenys Roger (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 3836, 1-163.
  • Roger, J. 1861a. Die Ponera-artigen Ameisen (Schluss). Berl. Entomol. Z. 5: 1-54 (page 41, Leptogenys as genus)
  • Schmidt, C.A. & Shattuck, S.O. 2014. The higher classification of the ant subfamily Ponerinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with a review of ponerine ecology and behavior. Zootaxa 3817, 1–242 (doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3817.1.1).
  • Snelling, R. R. 1981. Systematics of social Hymenoptera. Pp. 369-453 in: Hermann, H. R. (ed.) Social insects. Volume 2. New York: Academic Press, xiii + 491 pp. (page 390, Leptogenys senior synonym of Odontopelta)
  • Steghaus-Kovac S. & Maschwitz U 1993. Predation on earwigs: A novel diet specialization within the genus Leptogenys (Formicidae: Ponerinae). Insectes Sociaux 40: 337-340
  • Taylor, R. W. 1969. The identity of Dorylozelus mjobergi Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J. Aust. Entomol. Soc. 8: 131-133 (page 132, Leptogenys senior synonym of Dorylozelus)
  • Taylor, R. W. 1988. The nomenclature and distribution of some Australian and New Caledonian ants of the genus Leptogenys Roger (=Prionogenys Emery, n. syn.) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae). Gen. Appl. Entomol. 20: 33-37 (page 33, Leptogenys senior synonym of Prionogenys)
  • Taylor, R. W.; Brown, D. R. 1985. Formicoidea. Zool. Cat. Aust. 2:1- 149: 1-149, 30 (page 32, Leptogenys senior synonym of Odontopelta)
  • Tseng, S.-P., Hsu, P.-W., Lee, C.-C., Wetterer, J.K., Hugel, S., Wu, L.-H., Lee, C.-Y., Yoshimura, T., Yang, C.-C.S. 2020. Evidence for common horizontal transmission of Wolbachia among ants and ant crickets: Kleptoparasitism added to the list. Microorganisms 8, 805. (doi:10.3390/MICROORGANISMS8060805).
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 135, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • 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 652, Leptogenys in Ponerinae, Leptogenyini)
  • Wilson, E. O. 1955d. The status of the ant genus Microbolbos Donisthorpe. Psyche (Camb.) 62: 136 (page 136, Leptogenys senior synonym of Microbolbos)
  • Wilson, E. O. 1958c. Studies on the ant fauna of Melanesia. I. The tribe Leptogenyini. II. The tribes Amblyoponini and Platythyreini. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 118: 101-153 (page 113, Key to Melanesian species; page 136, Key to New Caledonian species)