Rhytidoponera metallica

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Rhytidoponera metallica
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ectatomminae
Tribe: Ectatommini
Genus: Rhytidoponera
Species: R. metallica
Binomial name
Rhytidoponera metallica
(Smith, F., 1858)

Rhytidoponera metallica casent0172345 profile 1.jpg

Rhytidoponera metallica casent0172345 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


A very common smallish, iridescent species. This species, or a complex of sibling species, is found throughout Australia. In the suburbs of some major cities in the eastern states, where it is present in large numbers in parks and gardens, it is regarded as a stinging nuisance. Rhytidoponera metallica is fond of elaiosomes and has a significant role in dispersal of seeds (Hughes and Westoby 1992; Hughes et al. 1994).

Photo Gallery

  • A Pheidole antipodum queen wrestles with a couple of Rhytidoponera metallica workers. Both species had their nests in close proximity, which boded ill for the queens of both species trying to venture away from their nest. Although she is more powerful and heavily armoured than her foes, she will eventually succumb to them as the workers sting and drag her back to their nest to be butchered and fed to the larvae. Wandering, Western Australia. Photo by Farhan Bokhari.
  • Rhytidoponera metallica workers bring a Camponotus male back to their nest after stinging it to death. These ants forage singly, but are known to cooperate in bringing prey back to their nest. Brigadoon, Western Australia, photo by Farhan Bokhari.
  • Worker with fly.
  • Worker with fly.
  • Rhytidoponera metallica feeding on moth, South Australia. Photo by Mark Newton.


Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia (type locality), New Zealand.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


These ants are common in both native and urban habitats, being being abundant across a wide range of situations.

In rare instances these ants have been known to cause serious health problems for humans. In May 2009, a 4 year old girl in northern New South Wales was stung three times by this ant. Within minutes she developed anaphylactic shock and required adrenaline. She recovered but the concern is that future stings may cause similar reactions (Shattuck, 2009).

Beaumont et al. (2018) studied how this ant might influence germination of three legumes in burned and unburned sites in Adelaide.

R. metallica is the major seed disperser in our study region. It disperses between 43% and 97% of the seeds (Beaumont et al. 2011, 2013), transports seeds greater distances than other ant species, promotes further dissemination of seeds through processes of seed redispersal (Beaumont et al. 2013) and buries a large fraction of seeds within a potential germination zone. This, in addition to frequent nest relocation (Hughes 1990; Thomas 2002), suggests that R. metallica is likely to be a major agent in determining the spatial development of myrmecochorous seed banks during inter-fire periods. In this present study germination rates of buried seeds associated with nests were higher in burned sites. This demonstrates that R. metallica buried a proportion of the seeds they collected at depths where sufficient soil heating occurred to break seed dormancy during the prescribed fire. We conclude 'R. metallica may provide fire avoidance benefits by burying seeds at a range of depths within a potential germination zone defined by intra- and inter-fire variation in levels of soil heating.





The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • metallica. Ponera metallica Smith, F. 1858b: 94 (w.q.) AUSTRALIA. Mayr, 1866b: 891 (m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1952a: 125 (l.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1964b: 449 (l.); Crozier, 1969: 241 (k.); Imai, Crozier & Taylor, 1977: 347 (k.). Combination in Ecataomma (Rhytidoponera): Mayr, 1862: 732; in Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera): Emery, 1897d: 548. Senior synonym of caeciliae, pulchra, purpurascens, varians: Brown, 1958g: 204.
  • purpurascens. Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera) metallica var. purpurascens Wheeler, W.M. 1915g: 805 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Junior synonym of metallica: Brown, 1958g: 204.
  • varians. Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera) metallica var. varians Crawley, 1922b: 436 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Crawley, 1925b: 591 (m.). Junior synonym of metallica: Brown, 1958g: 204.
  • caeciliae. Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera) caeciliae Viehmeyer, 1924a: 227 (w.q.) AUSTRALIA. Junior synonym of metallica: Brown, 1958g: 204.
  • pulchra. Chalcoponera pulchra Clark, 1941: 86, pl. 13, fig. 16 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Junior synonym of metallica: Brown, 1958g: 204.

Type Material

  • Chalcoponera pulchra Clark, 1941: Syntype, 1 worker, Forrest, Western Australia, Australia, <collector unknown>, ANIC32-011948, Australian National Insect Collection.
  • Chalcoponera pulchra Clark, 1941: Syntype, worker(s), Forrest, Western Australia, Australia, Museum Victoria, Melbourne.
  • Ponera metallica Smith, 1858: Lectotype, worker or queen (uncertain), Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, The Natural History Museum.
  • Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera) caeciliae Viehmeyer, 1924: Syntype, worker(s), queen(s), Killalpaninna (as Kilolpanino), South Australia, Australia, Berlin Museum für Naturkunde der Humboldt-Universität.
  • Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera) metallica purpurascens Wheeler, 1915: Holotype, worker, Moorilyanna, South Australia, Australia, Museum of Comparative Zoology.
  • Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera) metallica varians Crawley, 1922: Syntype, worker, Darlington, Western Australia, Australia, Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
  • Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera) metallica varians Crawley, 1922: Syntype, 3 workers, 3 males, Darlington, Western Australia, Australia, Queensland Museum.
  • Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera) metallica varians Crawley, 1922: Syntype, 2 workers, 1 male (may not be true types), Darlington, Western Australia, Australia, Western Australian Museum.

The following notes on F. Smith type specimens have been provided by Barry Bolton (details):

Ponera metallica

Two worker syntypes in The Natural History Museum. Labelled “Adelaide,” and “Smith coll. pres. by Mrs Farren White. 99-103.” [One specimen designated lectotype by Brown, 1958.]

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



Crawley (1925) - Length 5.2 mm.

Slightly smaller than the above. The funicular joints are rather shorter, the sculpture on head and thorax is denser, the punctures less defined, on the postpetiole the sculpture is coarser, irregularly transversely rugose; the first segment of gaster transversely roughened; otherwise like inornata. The pilosity on the legs is less dense.


  • n = 17 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • n = 18 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • n = 19 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • n = 20 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • n = 21 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • n = 22 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 24 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969; Crozier et al., 1986) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 41 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 42 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 43 (Australia) (Crozier, 1969; Crozier et al., 1986) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 34 (Australia) (Crozier et al., 1986) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 35 (Australia) (Crozier et al., 1986) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 36 (Australia) (Crozier et al., 1986) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 37 (Australia) (Crozier et al., 1986) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 38 (Australia) (Crozier et al., 1986) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 46 (Australia) (Crozier et al., 1986) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 22 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 23 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 24 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 36 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 37 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 41 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 42 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 43 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 44 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).
  • 2n = 46 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (Robertsonian polymorphism).


  • Beaumont, K. P., D. A. Mackay, and M. A. Whalen. 2018. The role of Rhytidoponera metallica (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) in facilitating post-fire seed germination of three ant-dispersed legume species. Austral Ecology. 43:128-138. doi:10.1111/aec.12550
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1958g. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. II. Tribe Ectatommini (Hymenoptera). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 118: 173-362 (page 204, Senior synonym of caeciliae, pulchra, purpurascens and varians)
  • Crawley, W. C. 1925b. New ants from Australia. - II. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 9(16): 577-598 PDF
  • Crozier, R. H. 1969a [1968]. Cytotaxonomic studies on some Australian dolichoderine ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Caryologia 21: 241-259 (page 241, karyotype described)
  • Emery, C. 1897d. Viaggio di Lamberto Loria nella Papuasia orientale. XVIII. Formiche raccolte nella Nuova Guinea dal Dott. Lamberto Loria. [part]. Ann. Mus. Civ. Stor. Nat. 38[=(2(18): 546-576 (page 548, Combination in Rhytidoponera (Chalcoponera))
  • Gibb, H., Giragossyan, H., Hochuli, D.F. 2003. Spatial arrangement of nests of the common greenhead ant, Rhytidoponera metallica (F. Smith), on rock outcrops: overdispersion and the effect of a dominant ant. Records of the South Australian Museum Monograph Series 7: 275-281.
  • Heterick, B. E. 2009. A guide to the ants of South-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 76:1-206. PDF
  • Imai, H. T.; Crozier, R. H.; Taylor, R. W. 1977. Karyotype evolution in Australian ants. Chromosoma (Berl.) 59: 341-393 (page 347, karyotype described)
  • Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 732, Combination in Ectatomma (Rhytidoponera))
  • Mayr, G. 1866b. Diagnosen neuer und wenig gekannter Formiciden. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 16: 885-908 (page 891, male described)
  • Shattuck, S. O. (2009). Personal communication from paediatric immunologist, Children's Hospital Medical Central, Westmead, NSW, May, 2009.
  • Smith, F. 1858a. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Formicidae. London: British Museum, 216 pp. (page 94, worker, queen described)
  • Ward, P. S. 1986. Functional queens in the Australian greenhead ant, Rhytidoponera metallica (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Psyche (Cambridge) 93:1-12. [1986-10-10] PDF (page 1, see also)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1952a. The ant larvae of the subfamily Ponerinae - Part I. Am. Midl. Nat. 48: 111-144 (page 125, larva described)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1964b. The ant larvae of the subfamily Ponerinae: supplement. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 57: 443-462 (page 449, larva described)