Nests of Cataulacus latissimus were found inside large branches (>5 cm in diameter) in the canopy of tropical rainforest trees. Foragers were active in the crown during the day. (Tanaka et al. 2010)
A member of the taprobanae group. By virtue of its large size, extremely broad head, laterally expanded pronotum, strongly marginate gaster and lack of hairs upon the dorsal surfaces of the head and body, the worker of this species is unlikely to be confused with any other (Bolton 1974).
Keys including this Species
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
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Much of the information concerning the biology of Cataulacus species is anecdotal and fragmentary. Arnold (1917) wrote a succinct general overview of Cataulacus biology that still remains quite informative. Arnold reports "all the species of this genus are tree-ants, usually forming medium sized nests in hollow twigs and stems, or more rarely, under the bark. They are timid and slow-moving insects, often feigning death or dropping rapidly to the ground when disturbed. As Bingham has remarked in connection with this genus (Fauna Brit. India, Formicidae), these ants have the habit of wandering over the trunks of trees and the leaves in what appears to be a very aimless and languid manner. I have occasionally seen them breaking open the earthen tunnels constructed by termites over the trunks of trees and attack the inmates."
Bolton (1974) expands upon this earlier account - "All known Cataulacus species are arboreal or subarboreal nesters and they predominantly forage on the trees and shrubs in which the nests are situated. Very few appear to come down to ground level but in West Africa the small species Cataulacus pygmaeus and Cataulacus brevisetosus may be found foraging in leaf litter or crossing the ground to ascend a tree other than the one in which the nest is situated. The nests themselves are usually constructed in small hollow twigs or stems by the smaller species and in rotten branches or rotted portions of the tree trunk by the larger species. This is rather a generalization as some small species are known which nest in and under rotten bark (e.g. Cataulacus vorticus) and undoubtedly some of the larger forms will eventually be found inhabiting relatively small cavities in plants.
Various species of the genus in Africa are known to inhabit a variety of galls, acacias and bushes as well as large trees. Numerous species have been found nesting in, and have therefore been often collected from, cocoa in Africa. Some of these species are Cataulacus guineensis, Cataulacus pygmaeus, Cataulacus mocquerysi, Cataulacus egenus, Cataulacus vorticus, Cataulacus brevisetosus, Cataulacus kohli and Cataulacus theobromicola. Feeding habits in the genus are mostly unknown but the present author has noted C. guineensis tending aphids and small coccids.
On the plants ants of the genus Cataulacus often occur together with Oecophylla or species of Crematogaster, and appear to be mostly tolerated (at least they are not evicted) by the majority of these forms. Their defence against attackers of these genera lies primarily in their armoured exterior, but their ultimate escape reaction is to curl up and release their grip on the plant, falling to the ground and thus making their escape. The decision to remain immobile and present an armoured surface or to drop from the plant appears to depend upon the size or persistence of the aggressor; larger attackers usually precipitate the latter reaction, but it has also been noted as a result of persistent and unwanted attention by a series of workers of a small Crematogaster species.
The majority of species are forest-dwelling forms, with relatively few adapted to savannah or veldt conditions. Those which do, however, occur in these zones tend to be very successful in their chosen habitat and often possess a wide distribution. A few species are apparently able to exist in any region of Africa providing the basic essentials of nesting-site and food supply are met with, but on the whole the fauna may be divided into forest and non-forest forms."
Some species have nests that can be protected by a single worker's head, as its shape matches the nest entrance and forms an effective plug.
It has more recently been discovered that some species of Cataulacus are efficient gliders (Cataulacus erinaceus, Cataulacus guineensis, Cataulacus mocquerysi and Cataulacus tardus). Workers exhibit directed movement while in freefall that allows them to glide back to regain a hold on the same tree trunk. (Yanoviak et al. 2005, 2007, 2008)
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- latissimus. Cataulacus latissimus Emery, 1893e: 215, pl. 8, fig. 10 (w.) WEST MALAYSIA. Viehmeyer, 1922: 212 (q.); Bolton, 1974a: 78 (m.). Senior synonym of mimula: Bolton, 1974a: 77.
- mimula. Cataulacus latissimus var. mimula Menozzi, 1923b: 210 (w.) BORNEO. Junior synonym of latissimus: Bolton, 1974a: 77.
Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.
Bolton (1974) - TL 6.0 – 8.0, HL 1.50 – 1.64, HW 2.16 – 2.40, CI 144 - 146, EL 0.48 – 0.54, OI 22 - 23, IOD 1.76-1.90, SL 0.86, SI ca 36, PW 1.86 – 2.20, AL 1.60 – 1.98, MTL ca 1.02 (2 measured).
Head massive, obviously much broader than long, the eyes relatively small. Occipital crest complete, sinuate with the median portion concave, and with a series of denticles along its length. Sides of head behind eyes denticulate and terminating in a subtriangular tooth at the occipital corners. Pronotum very broad, margined anteriorly by a small, raised ridge and laterally by a pair of large, flange-like expansions, the borders of which are denticulate. Mesonotum laterally with an apically bifurcate tubercle. Propodeum and basal half of the spines expanded laterally, the expanded portion denticulate along the edges. The apical halves of the spines smooth and tapering to an acute point. Promesonotal suture effaced, but its track marked by a very poorly defined impression in large workers. Also in larger workers the path of the metanotal groove may be picked out by a strip of more polished cuticle. First gastral tergite marginate around the entire circumference, strongest anteriorly and anterolaterally, less strong but still distinct elsewhere.
Sculpturation of head a fine and dense rugoreticulum with reticulate-punctate interspaces, the rugae tending to fade out anteriorly. Sculpturation of alitrunk and gaster similar to that of head, with the rugulae of the pronotum and first gastral tergite finer than those of the remainder of the alitrunk or pedicel.
Hairs absent from dorsal surfaces of head, alitrunk and gaster but present on the pedicel and around the margins of the aforementioned areas, and also upon the appendages.
Bolton (1974) - Putative. TL 7.2, HL 1.36, HW 1.74, CI 128, EL 0.48, OI 28, IOD 1.46, SL 0.80, SI 46, PW 1.54, AL 2.21.
Occipital crest complete, shaped and armed as in the worker. Sides of head behind eyes denticulate, without a separate larger tooth at the occipital corner. Head distinctly broader than long, the eyes relatively larger than in the worker. Pronotum expanded laterally into a rounded flange on each side, the margins of which are denticulate and distinctly overhang the lateral portions of the sclerite. Anterior margin of pronotum with a low, transverse ridge which is broken medially. Anterior arms of notauli well developed and cross-ribbed, the posterior arm represented by a broad and shallow longitudinal groove. Parapsidal furrows present on the posterior half of the scutum. Propodeal spines distinct, short and broad. Gaster marginate laterally to the level of the spiracle of the first tergite, behind which it fades out. Spiracle of the first tergite borne upon a small tubercle, and the edge of the gaster between this and the base with two or three small denticles.
Head finely reticulate-rugose, more finely so on the anterior half where the cross-meshes are largely incomplete or absent and the rugae more or less longitudinal. Some broader, coarser rugae originate at the inner margin of each eye and run posteromedially to the occipital crest. Interspaces of the rugoreticulum finely and densely reticulate-punctate. Alitrunk with a rugoreticulum over the entire dorsum, finest on the pronotum, considerably more coarse on the propodeum and with reticulate-punctate interspaces. First gastral tergite with some basigastric costulae and a few weak, broken longitudinal rugae which do not extend onto the posterior half of the segment. Otherwise the gaster entirely reticulate-punctate. All dorsal surfaces of the head, body and appendages with erect, stout hairs.
Syntype workers, WEST MALAYSIA: Perak (Bedot & Pictet) (probably in MCSN, Genoa).
Cataulacus latissimus var. mimula Syntype workers, BORNEO: Brunei (Staudinger & Bang-Haas) (probably in IE, Bologna).
- Bolton, B. 1974a. A revision of the Palaeotropical arboreal ant genus Cataulacus F. Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bull. Br. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Entomol. 30:1-105. (page 78, male described; page 77, Senior synonym of mimula)
- Emery, C. 1893g. Formicides de l'Archipel Malais. Rev. Suisse Zool. 1: 187-229 (page 215, pl. 8, fig. 10 worker described)
- Tanaka, H. O., S. Yamane, and T. Itioka. 2010. Within-tree distribution of nest sites and foraging areas of ants on canopy trees in a tropical rainforest in Borneo. Population Ecology. 52:147-157.
- Viehmeyer, H. 1922. Neue Ameisen. Arch. Naturgesch. (A)88(7 7: 203-220 (page 212, queen described)