Azteca nigricans

AntWiki: The Ants --- Online
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Azteca nigricans
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Dolichoderinae
Tribe: Leptomyrmecini
Genus: Azteca
Species: A. nigricans
Binomial name
Azteca nigricans
Forel, 1899

Azteca nigricans casent0619165 p 1 high.jpg

Azteca nigricans casent0619165 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels

Longino (1996) reviewed the taxonomy and biology of this species. It is found in wet forest habitats, where it nests in live stems of a wide variety of trees, including Cecropia insignis, Inga, Pentaclethra macroloba, Erythrina poeppigiana (Fabaceae), Tetrathylacium costaricensis, Licania, Phoebe chavarriana (Lauraceae), and Dendropanax arboreus (Araliaceae). The workers make small holes in shoot tips of live trees, leading to irregular cavities containing brood. The walls of the cavities are lined with abundant coccoid Hemiptera. As flushes of new growth occur, the ants move into the new shoots and progressively abandon older chambers lower in the branch. Colonies are polydomous, with brood distributed in multiple nests. Colonies can be large, occurring in large portions of large canopy trees. In contrast to the similar species A. brevis, workers do not use carton construction and often have exposed foragers on stems. Although new alate queens are often dispersed in the nests of a colony, I have never found a physogastric colony queen. This suggests that colonies are monogynous, with the colony queen hidden in one of the many nests that occur in tree crowns. Brood must be transported externally to new nests. (Longino 2007)


Longino (2007) - The bristly mandibles ally this species with Azteca forelii and Azteca brevis. Queens of A. nigricans are smaller than queens of A. forelii. Queens of A. brevis have shorter scapes than queens of A. nigricans (SI 39–43 versus 50–52, respectively). Workers of A. brevis are distinguished from workers of A. nigricans by the reduced number of setae on the hind tibia, 0–2 on A. brevis versus > 5 on A. nigricans.

In Longino (1996), two morphospecies, JTL-001 and JTL-002, were considered close to or conspecific with A. nigicans. The former was discovered to be Azteca brevis, and the measurements of the latter cluster with the holotype queen of A. nigricans. The separateness of A. brevis and A. nigricans was further supported when the two species were found to be sympatric in Corcovado National Park. I found both species nesting in the canopy of a large Licania tree in Corcovado National Park. At the time I did not understand the species boundaries, but in the field I observed behavioral differences. In my field notes I commented that Azteca high in the crown produced a black crusty carton on the stem surfaces and were rarely seen exposed on the surface, while another group of Azteca lower in the crown looked similar but did not make carton and were active and exposed on the surface of the live stems in which they nested. The former were A. brevis and the latter A. nigricans.

Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 19.60083333° to 8.483333333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama (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 Azteca biology 
All known Azteca species are arboreal, nesting in living or dead wood, or external carton nests. Some species exhibit obligate associations with myrmecophytes, especially of the genus Cecropia (see Chapter 14 of The Ants). Feeding habits are generalized with foraging occurring both arboreally and on the ground.





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

  • nigricans. Azteca fasciata var. nigricans Forel, 1899c: 122 (q.) PANAMA.
    • Longino, 2007: 40 (w.).
    • Subspecies of fasciata: Emery, 1913a: 33; Kempf, 1972a: 31; Shattuck, 1994: 17; Bolton, 1995b: 79.
    • Status as species: Longino, 1996: 141; Longino, 2007: 40 (redescription); Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012: 253.

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



Longino (2007) - (n=4): HLA 1.31 (1.04–1.42), HW 1.09 (0.92–1.20), SL 0.73 (0.67–0.77), CI 84 (83–88), SI 56 (54–64).

Palpal formula 5,3; middle and hind tibia with prominent pectinate apical spur; dorsal surface of mandible with abundant piligerous puncta, surface between puncta smooth and shining, variable extent of base faintly microareolate; medial and lateral clypeal lobes at about same level; head subquadrate with weakly convex sides, moderately excavate posterior margin; in lateral profile mesosoma compact, pronotum and mesonotum nearly forming a single convexity, with promesonotal suture very weakly impressed; scape with sparse, inconspicuous erect setae, length of setae about one half maximum width of scape; outer surface of hind tibia with a row of about 5 very short, inconspicuous, suberect setae; side of head lacking erect setae or with 1–2 near mandibular insertion; posterior margin of head with sparse erect setae; pronotum and mesonotum with sparse erect setae, dorsal face of propodeum lacking erect setae; color red brown.


Longino (2007) - (n=5): HLA 1.55 (1.48–1.64), HW 1.09 (1.05–1.17), SL 0.76 (0.74–0.79), CI 71 (70–73), SI 50 (48–51).

Palpal formula 5,3; middle and hind tibia with prominent pectinate apical spur; dorsal surface of mandible coarsely punctate, puncta bearing stiff erect setae, mandible appearing bristly; medial and lateral clypeal lobes at about same level; head subrectangular, posterior margin weakly excised medially; petiolar node short, broadly triangular; posteroventral petiolar lobe strongly convex from front to back; scape with sparse and inconspicuous erect setae, about as long as one third maximum width of scape; hind tibia with short inconspicuous suberect setae, longest of these about as long as one sixth maximum width of tibia (MTSC 5–10); side of head with 0–2 short setae near mandibular insertion, setae lacking elsewhere, posterior margin of head with sparse erect setae; pronotum with posterior row of erect setae; mesoscutum and scutellum with very sparse erect setae; propodeum with a few erect setae on sides, none on dorsomedial area; petiolar node with rim of whitish erect pubescence, a few longer erect setae on lower sides but in profile with none projecting above apex, posteroventral lobe with abundant long setae; gastral terga with very sparse erect setae; general body color dark brown, the following lighter yellow brown: thin strip of anterior clypeus and area near mandibular insertions, thin anterior and posterior bands on gastral terga, gastral sterna.

Type Material

Unique syntype queen: Panama, Bugaba, Volcan de Chiriqui (Champion) Musee d'Histoire Naturelle Genève (examined).


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Adams B. J., S. A. Schnitzer, and S. P. Yanoviak. 2019. Connectivity explains local ant community structure in a Neotropical forest canopy: a large-scale experimental approach. Ecology 100(6): e02673.
  • Branstetter M. G. and L. Sáenz. 2012. Las hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) de Guatemala. Pp. 221-268 in: Cano E. B. and J. C. Schuster. (eds.) 2012. Biodiversidad de Guatemala. Volumen 2. Guatemala: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, iv + 328 pp
  • Dattilo W. et al. 2019. MEXICO ANTS: incidence and abundance along the Nearctic-Neotropical interface. Ecology
  • Emery C. 1913. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Dolichoderinae. Genera Insectorum 137: 1-50.
  • Fernández, F. and S. Sendoya. 2004. Lista de las hormigas neotropicales. Biota Colombiana Volume 5, Number 1.
  • Kempf, W.W. 1972. Catalago abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical (Hym. Formicidae) Studia Entomologica 15(1-4).
  • Longino J. T. 2007. A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group. Zootaxa 1491: 1-63
  • Shattuck S. O. 1994. Taxonomic catalog of the ant subfamilies Aneuretinae and Dolichoderinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). University of California Publications in Entomology 112: i-xix, 1-241.
  • Yanoviak S. P., and M. Kaspari. 2000. Community structure and the habitat templet: ants in the tropical forest canopy and litter. Oikos 89: 259-266.