Atta

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Atta
Atta cephalotes
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Atta
Fabricius, 1804
Type species
Formica cephalotes, now Atta cephalotes
Diversity
20 species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)

Atta cephalotes casent0173617 profile 1.jpg

Atta cephalotes

Atta cephalotes casent0173617 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Synonyms
Evolutionary Relationships
Neoattina

Cyatta (1 species), Kalathomyrmex (1 species)





Mycetarotes
  (4 species)



Mycetosoritis
  (2 species)






some Cyphomyrmex
  (23 species)




some Cyphomyrmex
  (23 species)



Paramycetophylax
  (1 species)






Mycetophylax
  (21 species)




Mycetagroicus
  (4 species)





Mycetomoellerius
  (31 species)




Sericomyrmex
  (11 species)



Xerolitor
  (1 species)






Paratrachymyrmex
  (9 species)




Trachymyrmex
  (9 species)




Amoimyrmex
  (3 species)




Acromyrmex
  (56 species)



Atta
  (20 species)












Based on Ward et al. (2014), Blaimer et al. (2018), Li et al. (2018), Cristiano et al. (2020) and Hanisch et al. (2022).

A genus of fungus growing ants. Leafcutter ants obligately cultivate clonally propagated fungus inside their nest as their main source of food. Larval and adult ants eat fungal mycelium from their fungus gardens, as well as clusters (“staphylae”) of modified hyphal tips (“gongylidia”). Nests of some species can be physically very large and consist of millions of workers. (Hölldobler and Wilson 1990, Dijkstra and Boomsma 2006).


At a Glance • Fungus Grower  

 

Identification

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

Keys including this Genus

 

Keys to Species in this Genus

Distribution

Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps

Biology

Atta species have a profound influence on the habitats where they live. A review by Swanson et al. (2019) summarized what has been found about their ecological effects on ecosystems: abstract - Leaf-cutter ants are a prominent feature in Neotropical ecosystems, but a comprehensive assessment of their effects on ecosystem functions is lacking. We reviewed the literature and used our own recent findings to identify knowledge gaps and develop a framework to quantify the effects of leaf-cutter ants on ecosystem processes. Leaf-cutter ants disturb the soil structure during nest excavation changing soil aeration and temperature. They mix relatively nutrient-poor soil from deeper layers with the upper organic-rich layers increasing the heterogeneity of carbon and nutrients within nest soils. Leaf-cutter ants account for about 25% of all herbivory in Neotropical forest ecosystems, moving 10%-15% of leaves in their foraging range to their nests. Fungal symbionts transform the fresh, nutrient-rich vegetative material to produce hyphal nodules to feed the ants. Organic material from roots and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi enhances carbon and nutrient turnover in nest soils and creates biogeochemical hot spots. Breakdown of organic matter, microbial and ant respiration, and nest waste material decomposition result in increased CO2, CH4, and N2O production, but the build-up of gases and heat within the nest is mitigated by the tunnel network ventilation system. Nest ventilation dynamics are challenging to measure without bias, and improved sensor systems would likely solve this problem. Canopy gaps above leaf-cutter ant nests change the light, wind and temperature regimes, which affects ecosystem processes. Nests differ in density and size depending on colony age, forest type and disturbance level and change over time resulting in spatial and temporal changes of ecosystem processes. These characteristics remain a challenge to evaluate rapidly and non-destructively. Addressing the knowledge gaps identified in this synthesis will bring insights into physical and biological processes driving biogeochemical cycles at the nest and ecosystem scale and will improve our understanding of ecosystem biogeochemical heterogeneity and larger scale ecological phenomena.

Dijkstra and Boomsma (2006) investigated the viability of worker-produced eggs in Atta cephalotes, Atta sexdens and Atta colombica. Most Atta workers have rudimentary, non-functional ovaries in a queenright colony but a few, typically tending the queen, can produce trophic eggs (Dijkstra et al., 2005). These eggs are feed to the queen. It was not known if any worker eggs can produce males. This study found, and concluded: Atta workers are not completely infertile, but worker fertility is low compared to the sister genus Acromyrmex, where workers routinely produce normally-size males after queen loss in the laboratory. Most worker eggs did not contain yolk but a small number did and yielded morphologically correct but very small males. They hypothesize that worker reproduction in orphaned Atta field colonies is almost never successful because the last workers die before their sons can be raised to adulthood, but the importance of worker-laid trophic eggs for queen feeding has precluded the evolutionary loss of worker ovaries.

Association with Other Organisms

Species Uncertain

  • An unknown species is a host for the phorid fly Apocephalus vicosae (a parasite) (phorid.net) (attacked).
  • An unknown species is a prey for the phorid fly Dohrniphora curvispinosa (a predator) (Quevillon, 2018).
  • An unknown species is a associate (details unknown) for the phorid fly Ecitoptera microps (a associate (details unknown)) (Quevillon, 2018).
  • An unknown species is a host for the phorid fly Apocephalus vicosae (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • An unknown species is a host for the phorid fly Neodohrniphora declinata (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • An unknown species is a host for the fungus Aspergillus flavus (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest).
  • An unknown species is a host for the fungus Beauveria bassiana (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest).
  • An unknown species is a associate (details unknown) for the fungus Fusarium graminearum (a associate (details unknown)) (Quevillon, 2018).
  • An unknown species is a associate (details unknown) for the fungus Fusarium oxysporum (a associate (details unknown)) (Quevillon, 2018).
  • An unknown species is a associate (details unknown) for the fungus Fusarium solani (a associate (details unknown)) (Quevillon, 2018).
  • An unknown species is a associate (details unknown) for the fungus Purpureocillium lilacinum (a associate (details unknown)) (Quevillon, 2018).
  • An unknown species is a associate (details unknown) for the fungus Trichoderma atroviride (a associate (details unknown)) (Quevillon, 2018).

All Associate Records for Genus

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Taxon Relationship Associate Type Associate Taxon Associate Relationship Locality Source Notes
Atta associate (details unknown) fungus Fusarium graminearum associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta associate (details unknown) fungus Fusarium oxysporum associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta associate (details unknown) fungus Fusarium solani associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta associate (details unknown) fungus Purpureocillium lilacinum associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta associate (details unknown) fungus Trichoderma atroviride associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta associate (details unknown) phorid fly Ecitoptera microps associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta host fungus Aspergillus flavus parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest
Atta host fungus Beauveria bassiana parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest
Atta host phorid fly Apocephalus vicosae parasite phorid.net attacked
Atta host phorid fly Apocephalus vicosae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta host phorid fly Neodohrniphora declinata parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta prey phorid fly Dohrniphora curvispinosa predator Quevillon, 2018
Atta bisphaerica associate (details unknown) fungus Aspergillus ochraceus associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta bisphaerica host phorid fly Apocephalus attophilus parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta bisphaerica host phorid fly Myrmosicarius grandicornis parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta bisphaerica host phorid fly Neodorhniphora bragancai parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes associate (details unknown) phorid fly Synclinusa spp. associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta cephalotes host fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis pathogen Asia, North and South America Shrestha et al., 2017
Atta cephalotes host milichiid fly Milichiella argenteocincta myrmecophile Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominica, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Alabama, Florida Brake, 2009; Milichiidae online
Atta cephalotes host milichiid fly Pholeomyia comans myrmecophile Moser & Neff, 1971; Milichiidae online
Atta cephalotes host milichiid fly Pholeomyia texensis myrmecophile Texas Waller, 1980; Milichiidae online
Atta cephalotes host nematode Panagrolaimus sp. parasite Quevillon, 2018 multiple encounter modes; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host nematode Pristonchus sp. parasite Quevillon, 2018 multiple encounter modes; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Allochaeta wallerae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Apocephalus asymmetricus parasite phorid.net attacked
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Apocephalus attophilus parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Apocephalus ritualis parasite phorid.net attacked
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Apocephalus sp. parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Apocephalus spinosus parasite phorid.net attacked
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora attae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora pala parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora prolixa parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Neodohrniphora curvinervis parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Neodohrniphora sp. 1 parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta cephalotes host phorid fly Neodohrniphora sp. 2 parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta colombica host fungus Ophiocordyceps subramanianii parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta colombica host phorid fly Apocephalus attophilus parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta colombica host phorid fly Apocephalus colombicus parasite phorid.net attacked
Atta colombica host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora pala parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta insularis associate (details unknown) phorid fly Puliciphora cubensis associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta laevigata host phorid fly Allochaeta excedens parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta laevigata host phorid fly Apocephalus attophilus parasite phorid.net attacked
Atta laevigata host phorid fly Apocephalus vicosae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta laevigata host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora parasite Souza & Pereira, 2020
Atta laevigata host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora tonhascai parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta laevigata host phorid fly Myrmosicarius parasite Souza & Pereira, 2020
Atta laevigata host phorid fly Neodohrniphora declinata parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta laevigata host phorid fly Neodohrniphora erthali parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta laevigata host sarcophagid fly Helicobia sp. parasite Brazil Barganca et al., 2020
Atta mexicana host fungus Beauveria bassiana parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest
Atta mexicana host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora mexicanae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta mexicana host phorid fly Neodohrniphora sp. parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta mexicana host pteromalid wasp Spalangia attae parasite Universal Chalcidoidea Database associate
Atta robusta host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora breviloba parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta robusta host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora digitata parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta robusta host phorid fly Myrmosicarius exrobusta parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens associate (details unknown) phorid fly Apterophora attophila associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta sexdens associate (details unknown) phorid fly Apterophora borgmeieri associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta sexdens associate (details unknown) phorid fly Apterophora bragancai associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta sexdens associate (details unknown) phorid fly Homalophora attae associate (details unknown) Quevillon, 2018
Atta sexdens host fungus Metarhizium anisopliae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Allochaeta excedens parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Apocephalus attophilus parasite Farder-Gomes et al., 2020
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Apocephalus vicosae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora tonhascai parasite Farder-Gomes et al., 2020; Souza & Pereira, 2020 Souza & Pereira, 2020 - genus-level identification only
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora trifurcata parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Myrmosicarius parasite Souza & Pereira, 2020 very rare
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Myrmosicarius crudelis parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Myrmosicarius grandicornis parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Neodohrniphora acromyrmecis parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Neodohrniphora curvinervis parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Neodohrniphora declinata parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Neodohrniphora elongata parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Neodohrniphora sp. parasite Braganca et al., 1998
Atta sexdens host phorid fly Neodohrniphora tonhascai parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta sexdens prey phorid fly Dohrniphora fuscicoxa predator Quevillon, 2018
Atta sexdens prey phorid fly Dohrniphora paraguayana predator Quevillon, 2018
Atta texana host diapriid wasp Coptera pholeomyiae parasite www.diapriid.org potential host
Atta texana host fungus Aspergillus flavus parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest
Atta texana host fungus Beauveria bassiana parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest
Atta texana host milichiid fly Pholeomyia comans myrmecophile Moser & Neff, 1971; Muesebeck, 1980 associated with or potential host
Atta texana host milichiid fly Pholeomyia texensis myrmecophile Texas Waller, 1980 associated with or potential host
Atta texana host phorid fly Apocephalus wallerae parasite phorid.net attacked
Atta texana host phorid fly Megaselia sp. parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta texana host phorid fly Myrmosicarius texanus parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta texana host pteromalid wasp Spalangia attae parasite Universal Chalcidoidea Database associate
Atta vollenweideri host phorid fly Apocephalus setitarsus parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta vollenweideri host phorid fly Apocephalus vicosae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta vollenweideri host phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora trilobata parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta vollenweideri host phorid fly Myrmosicarius brandaoi parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Atta vollenweideri host phorid fly Myrmosicarius gonzalezae parasitoid Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest

Flight Period

All Flight Records for Genus

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Taxon Month Source Notes
Atta mexicana Jun Jul antkeeping.info
Atta texana Apr May Jun antkeeping.info

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 1750000 (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Compound colony type: not parasitic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Nest site: hypogaeic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Diet class: herbivore (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging stratum: subterranean/leaf litter; arboreal (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging behaviour: cooperative (Greer et al., 2021)

Castes

Morphology

Worker Morphology

• Antennal segment count: 11 • Antennal club: gradual • Palp formula: 4,2 • Total dental count: 8-12 • Spur formula: 0,0 • Eyes: >100 ommatidia • Scrobes: absent • Pronotal Spines: present • Mesonotal Spines: dentiform; present • Propodeal Spines: present • Petiolar Spines: absent • Caste: polymorphic • Sting: absent • Metaplural Gland: present • Cocoon: absent

These characters are collated in the Worker Morphology table.

Karyotype

All Karyotype Records for Genus

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Taxon Haploid Diploid Karyotype Locality Source Notes
Atta bisphaerica 22 12M+6SM+4A Brazil Fadini & Pompolo, 1996; Barros et al., 2014
Atta colombica 11 22 12M+6SM+4A Panama Murakami et al., 1998; Barros et al., 2014 ''Atta columbica'' is a writing mistake
Atta laevigata 22 12M+6SM+4A Brazil Fadini & Pompolo, 1996; Barros et al., 2014
Atta robusta 22 18M+2SM+2ST Brazil Barros et al., 2015; de Castro et al., 2020
Atta sexdens 22 12M+6SM+4A Brazil Fadini & Pompolo, 1996; SantosColares et al., 1997; Barros et al., 2014
Atta sexdens 22 18M + 4A Brazil de Castro et al., 2020
Atta sexdens 22 18M+2SM+2ST Brazil, French Guiana Aguiar et al., 2020

Nomenclature

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

  • ATTA [Myrmicinae: Attini]
    • Atta Fabricius, 1804: 421. Type-species: Formica cephalotes, by subsequent designation of Wheeler, W.M. 1911f: 159.
    • Atta senior synonym of Oecodoma: Roger, 1863b: 35.
    • Atta senior synonym of Archeatta: Smith, M.R. 1951a: 832.
    • Atta senior synonym of Archeatta, Epiatta, Neoatta, Palaeatta: Weber, 1958a: 8. [Each subgeneric name has subsequently been resurrected from and returned to synonymy, see under respective entries and in Bolton (1995b, 2003).]
  • ARCHEATTA [junior synonym of Atta]
    • Archeatta Gonçalves, 1942: 342 [as subgenus of Atta]. Type-species: Oecodoma mexicana, by original designation.
    • Archeatta as subgenus of Atta: Borgmeier, 1959b: 350; Kempf, 1972a: 27.
    • Archeatta as junior synonym of Atta: Smith, M.R. 1951a: 832; Weber, 1958a: 8; Bolton, 1994: 105.
  • EPIATTA [junior synonym of Atta]
    • Epiatta Borgmeier, 1950d: 246 [as subgenus of Atta]. Type-species: Oecodoma laevigata, by original designation.
    • Epiatta junior synonym of Atta: Weber, 1958a: 8.
    • Epiatta junior synonym of Neoatta: Borgmeier, 1959b: 358.
    • Epiatta junior synonym of Atta: Bolton, 1994: 105.
  • MYRMEGIS [Nomen nudum]
    • Myrmegis Rafinesque, 1815: 124. Nomen nudum. [Brown, 1973b: 182, placed Myrmegis as a junior synonym of Atta, because the entry in Rafinesque reads, "6. Myrmegis R. Atta Latr."]
  • NEOATTA [junior synonym of Atta]
    • Neoatta Gonçalves, 1942: 346 [as subgenus of Atta]. Type-species: Formica sexdens, by original designation.
    • Neoatta subgenus of Atta: Borgmeier, 1959b: 358; Kempf, 1972a: 27.
    • Neoatta senior synonym of Epiatta: Borgmeier, 1959b: 358.
    • Neoatta junior synonym of Atta: Weber, 1958a: 8; Bolton, 1994: 105.
  • OECODOMA [junior synonym of Atta]
    • Oecodoma Latreille, 1818: 222. Type-species: Formica cephalotes, by subsequent designation of Shuckard, in Swainson & Shuckard, 1840: 174.
    • Oecodoma junior synonym of Atta: Roger, 1863b: 35. [Atta and Oecodoma share the same type-species, synonymy is therefore absolute.]
  • PALAEATTA [junior synonym of Atta]
    • Palaeatta Borgmeier, 1950d: 244 [as subgenus of Atta]. Type-species: Atta bisphaerica, by original designation.
    • Palaeatta subgenus of Atta: Borgmeier, 1959b: 377; Kempf, 1972a: 28.
    • Palaeatta junior synonym of Atta: Weber, 1958a: 8; Bolton, 1994: 105.

References