Azteca pittieri

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Azteca pittieri
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Dolichoderinae
Tribe: Leptomyrmecini
Genus: Azteca
Species: A. pittieri
Binomial name
Azteca pittieri
Forel, 1899

Azteca pittieri casent0903018 p 1 high.jpg

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Specimen Labels


The taxonomy and biology of this species is reviewed in Longino (1996). More recent studies of the relationship between Cordia alliodora and Azteca pittieri are Tillberg (2004), and Trager & Bruna (2006). This species is the dominant inhabitant of the ant plant Cordia alliodora. Most Cordia alliodora plants in Costa Rica harbor colonies of A. pittieri. Founding queens can be found alone in Cordia nodes, and never seem to found pleometrotically. Colonies are apparently monogynous, with workers, brood, and coccoid Hemiptera dispersed in nodes throughout the tree. Workers are aggressive and forage on the surface of the host tree, but do not generally forage off the host tree. (Longino 2007)


Keys including this Species


Mexico to Panama.

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 19.522° to 8.483333333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Costa Rica (type locality), El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama.

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.


Longino (2007) - A set of collections of A. pittieri have been made from understory Lauraceae. I collected workers from small trees (either Ocotea or Licaria) at Tortuguero, and workers and alate queens from Ocotea nicaraguensis at Carara Biological Reserve. These were dispersed in live branch tips, with general colony structure and behavior much like the colonies in Cordia. INBio Parataxonomists collected isolated queens at Rancho Quemado on the Osa Peninsula

Association with Other Organisms

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  • This species is a host for the eurytomid wasp Aximopsis affinis (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode independent; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).



Images from AntWeb

Azteca pittieri casent0909648 h 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909648 p 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909648 d 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909648 l 1 high.jpg
Syntype of Azteca longiceps patruelisWorker (major/soldier). Specimen code casent0909648. Photographer Will Ericson, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by MHNG, Geneva, Switzerland.
Azteca pittieri casent0909649 h 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909649 p 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909649 d 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909649 l 1 high.jpg
Syntype of Azteca longiceps patruelisWorker. Specimen code casent0909649. Photographer Will Ericson, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by MHNG, Geneva, Switzerland.
Azteca pittieri casent0909665 h 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909665 p 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909665 d 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909665 l 1 high.jpg
Syntype of Azteca pittieriWorker. Specimen code casent0909665. Photographer Will Ericson, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by MHNG, Geneva, Switzerland.
Azteca pittieri casent0909666 h 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909666 p 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909666 d 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri casent0909666 l 1 high.jpg
Syntype of Azteca pittieri emarginatisquamisWorker. Specimen code casent0909666. Photographer Will Ericson, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by MHNG, Geneva, Switzerland.
Azteca pittieri inbiocri001254168 h 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri inbiocri001254168 p 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri inbiocri001254168 d 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri inbiocri001254168 l 1 high.jpg
Worker. Specimen code inbiocri001254168. Photographer Ryan Perry, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by INBio.
Azteca pittieri jtlc000008467 h 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri jtlc000008467 p 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri jtlc000008467 d 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri jtlc000008467 l 1 high.jpg
Worker. Specimen code jtlc000008467. Photographer Shannon Hartman, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by JTLC.


Images from AntWeb

Azteca pittieri inbiocri002055401 h 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri inbiocri002055401 p 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri inbiocri002055401 d 1 high.jpgAzteca pittieri inbiocri002055401 l 1 high.jpg
Queen (alate/dealate). Specimen code inbiocri002055401. Photographer Ryan Perry, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by INBio.


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

  • pittieri. Azteca pittieri Forel, 1899c: 120, pl. 4, fig. 16 (w.) COSTA RICA.
    • Menozzi, 1927d: 337 (q.m.).
    • Status as species: Emery, 1913a: 34; Menozzi, 1927c: 268; Menozzi, 1927d: 337; Wheeler, W.M. 1942: 237; Kempf, 1972a: 34; Shattuck, 1994: 24; Bolton, 1995b: 79; Longino, 1996: 144; Longino, 2007: 43 (redescription); Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012: 253.
    • Senior synonym of emarginatisquamis: Longino, 1996: 144; Longino, 2007: 43.
    • Senior synonym of patruelis: Longino, 2007: 43.
  • emarginatisquamis. Azteca pittieri var. emarginatisquamis Forel, 1921a: 204 (w.) COSTA RICA.
    • Subspecies of pittieri: Wheeler, W.M. 1942: 238; Kempf, 1972a: 34; Shattuck, 1994: 24; Bolton, 1995b: 78.
    • Junior synonym of pittieri: Longino, 1996: 144; Longino, 2007: 42.
  • patruelis. Azteca longiceps subsp. patruelis Forel, 1908c: 392 (footnote) (s.w.q.) MEXICO (Colima).
    • Subspecies of longiceps: Emery, 1913a: 33; Wheeler, W.M. 1942: 233 (redescription); Kempf, 1972a: 33; Shattuck, 1994: 21; Bolton, 1995b: 79.
    • Status as species: Longino, 1996: 142.
    • Junior synonym of pittieri: Longino, 2007: 43.

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

Longino (2007) - The collections from Lauraceae are probably a distinct species, and I use the morphospecies code JTL-007 for them, but I cannot identify any morphological characters that distinguish them from the Cordia-inhabiting A. pittieri. The mandibles tend to be somewhat more setose, with larger and more abundant piligerous puncta compared to the specimens from Cordia. On some workers there are a few short setae on the side of the head posterior to eye, and the general surface pubescence is more abundant and longer. All other characters fall well within the range of variation for the Cordia specimens.

In Costa Rica, the queens of the Cordia-inhabiting A. pittieri cluster into two size classes. Smaller queens are from the Pacific lowlands, up to about 500m elevation. Larger queens occur at higher elevations on the Pacific slope, throughout the Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica, and the scattered collections from further north in Central America and southern Mexico, including the type of Azteca patruelis. Given that the two forms are parapatric and appear to have identical natural history, I am reluctant to consider them distinct species until additional collections and characters are examined.



Longino (2007) - (n=28): HLA 1.01 (0.77–1.21), HW 0.84 (0.64–0.99), SL 0.53 (0.44–0.60), CI 0.83 (0.78–0.89), SI 0.54 (0.49–0.60).

Palpal formula 5,3; middle and hind tibia with prominent pectinate apical spur; dorsal surface of mandible smooth and shiny, row of large puncta along masticatory margin with setae, others small and lacking setae; medial and lateral clypeal lobes at about same level; head elongate with weakly convex sides, strongly excavate posterior margin; in lateral profile pronotum shallowly convex, mesonotum slightly more convex and forming slightly separate convexity; scape with moderately abundant, inconspicuous erect setae, length of setae about one half maximum width of scape; mid and hind tibia with moderately abundant erect setae, longest about one half maximum width of tibia; side of head with 2–5 short erect setae anterior to eye, lacking setae elsewhere; posterior margin of head with abundant short erect setae; pronotum, mesonotum, and dorsal face of propodeum with abundant erect setae; color brown.


Longino (2007) - (n=64): HLA 1.48 (1.29–1.68, 62), HW 1.02 (0.83–1.14), SL 0.65 (0.59–0.72, 13), CI 68 (63–74, 62), SI 44 (42–45, 13).

Palpal formula 5,3; middle and hind tibia with prominent pectinate apical spur; dorsal surface of mandible with row of large puncta at masticatory margin, these bearing long setae, otherwise puncta small and lacking setae, surface smooth and shiny over variable extent of surface, becoming faintly microareolate and dull toward base; medial and lateral clypeal lobes at about same level; head rectangular, posterior margin distinctly excised medially; petiolar node short, bluntly rounded; posteroventral petiolar lobe moderately convex from front to back; scape with moderately abundant erect setae, about as long as one half maximum width of scape; middle and hind tibia with moderately abundant erect setae, longest about as long as one third maximum width of tibia (MTSC 5–15), side of head with 0–5 short erect setae near mandibular insertion, lacking setae elsewhere, posterior margin of head with abundant short setae; pronotum with posterior row of erect setae, mesoscutum and propodeum with sparse to abundant erect setae, scutellum with abundant erect setae, petiolar node in profile with 4–8 pairs erect setae projecting above apex, posteroventral lobe with abundant short erect setae; gastral terga with sparse erect setae; general body color uniformly dark brown.

Type Material

Longino (2007) - Syntype workers: Costa Rica, Buenos Aires (Pittier) Musee d'Histoire Naturelle Genève (examined).

The types of A. patruelis were sent to Forel by Wheeler, and Wheeler (1942:15) provided additional notes on the specimens. They were sent to Wheeler by C. H. Tyler Townsend, who collected them near Cualata, on the slopes of Volcán de Colima, Mexico, in Cordia alliodora. The ants kept large red lecanoid coccids in the nest.


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Ayala F. J., J. K. Wetterer, J. T. Longino, and D. L. Hartl. 1996. Molecular phylogeny of Azteca ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and the colonization of Cecropia trees. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 5: 423-428.
  • 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.
  • Forel A. 1921. Fourmis trouvées dans des galles de Cordia et d'Agonandra, etc. Bulletin de la Société Botanique de Genève. (2)12: 201-208.
  • 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
  • Longino J. T. 2013. Ants of Nicargua. Consulted on 18 Jan 2013.
  • Longino J. et al. ADMAC project. Accessed on March 24th 2017 at
  • Longino, J.T. 2010. Personal Communication. Longino Collection Database
  • Pringle, E. G., R. Dirzo, and D. M. Gordon. 2011. Indirect benefits of symbiotic coccoids for an ant-defended myrmecophytic tree. Ecology 92: 37-46.
  • Pringle, E. G., S. R. Ramirez, T. C. Bonebrake, D. M. Gordon, and R. Dirzo. 2012. Diversification and phylogeographic structure in widespread Azteca plant-ants from the northern Neotropics. Molecular Ecology 21: 3576-3592.
  • 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.
  • Vásquez-Bolaños M. 2011. Lista de especies de hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) para México. Dugesiana 18: 95-133
  • Wheeler W. M. 1942. Studies of Neotropical ant-plants and their ants. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 90: 1-262.