Cephalotes liepini

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Cephalotes liepini
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Cephalotes
Species: C. liepini
Binomial name
Cephalotes liepini
De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999

De Andrade 1999 Cephalotes OCR - Copy-401 Cephalotes-liepini.jpg

Nothing is known about the biology of Cephalotes liepini.


A member of the pinelii clade characterised in the worker by the membranaceous expansions of the gaster bent dorsally and in the soldier by the following combination of characters: large, deep, irregular and contiguous disc foveae bearing an erect, clubbed hair, petiole and postpetiole with round expansions, and vertex only superficially depressed. The soldier of Cephalotes liepini shares with Cephalotes kukulcan the disc foveae with an erect or suberect, clubbed hair and the humeri with narrow, membranaceous expansions and a narrow pronotal crest. The worker of liepini is unique within the pinelii clade for sharing with some species of the grandinosus clade the membranaceous expansions of the gaster bent dorsally, but liepini differs, however, from all the species of the grandinosus clade by the absence of crest on the mid and hind femora, a synapomorphic character of the latter clade.

Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Brazil (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


The biology of many Cephalotes species is not known. Ants in this genus are common in the New World tropics and subtropics and are especially abundant and diverse in the canopies of Neotropical forests. The majority of species are arboreal. Species that live in other strata inhabit smaller trees, bushes or grass stems. These noon-arboreal species, due to their accessibility, are among the better studied members of the genus. There are also species that can be found in downed wood but it is likely the wood housed the colony before it fell to the ground. Soil nests are not known for any species nor do most species appear to extensively excavate plant tissue. They nest instead in preformed cavities. Overall, ants in the genus utilize a wide range of plants. Some species are predictable in their plant use but none appear to have evolved specialized mutualisms with particular plant species.

Worker castes typically include two forms, a worker and soldier, but there are a few species that are monomorphic. The larger soldier caste typically has an enlarged head disk. In some species the head of the soldier is very different from the worker while in others these differences are less pronounced. Queens and soldiers tend to share similar head morphology. Soldiers use their heads to plug the nest entrance. This can be very effective in excluding potential intruders. Other morphological differences between the worker castes are present but these differences have not been studied as well as head moprhology.

The behavioral repertoire of Cephalotes varians has been examined in great detail (ethograms from Wilson 1976, Cole 1980 and Cole 1983). Soldiers do little else besides defend the nest. This specialized soldier behavior is presumed to be the norm for most species. An especially interesting behavior occurs when workers are dislodged from trees: they "fly" towards the tree, often grabbing the trunk well above the ground (video).

Mature nest size varies, by species, from less than a hundred to many thousands of workers. Available evidence suggests most species are monogynous. Queens may mate with multiple males.

The proventriculus of the Cephalotes is peculiar relative to other ants. The morphology of the structure suggests it serves as a powerful pump and filter. This does not appear to lead these ants to have a highly specialized diet as most species appear to be general scavengers. Foragers have been observed feeding on carrion, bird feces, extrafloral nectaries and even tending membracids. Pollen feeding has been observed in some species, and this is somewhat specialized for ants, but it is not evident that any species restricts its diet to this resource in any significant way. Evidence for pollen feeding in Cephalotes has accumulated, in part, via finding digested pollen grains seen in infrabucal pellets. It has been suggested that the morphology of the proventriculus is a specialization for processing pollen.

More research examining all aspects of the biology of Cephalotes is needed. Our present understanding of these ants is largely based on species that live in locations other than the forest canopy, which is where Cephalotes are most common and diverse.



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

  • liepini. Cephalotes liepini De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999: 398, figs. 179, 180 (s.w.) BRAZIL.

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



Head subquadrate; frons convex. Frontal carinae covering the mandibular sides and slightly upturned above the eyes. Vertexal angles obtuse, with a thin, membranaceous margin converging and narrowing before the middle of the vertexal border. Mandibles with thick lateral carina.

Mesosoma gently convex. Scapular angles absent or not visible in dorsal view. Anterior border of the pronotum gently convex in dorsal view; pronotal sides with a membranaceous expansion anteriorly obtuse and narrowing posteriorly. Promesonotal suture impressed. Mesonotum with a small pair of triangular, membranaceous teeth. Propodeal suture impressed. Declivous face of the propodeum gently sloping backwards. Basal and declivous propodeal faces with a membranaceous lateral expansion starting from the propodeal.

Petiole with a concave anterior face bearing a pair of denticles; postpetiolar dorsum sloping anteriorly. Sides of the petiole with a wing-shaped, membranaceous expansion with pointed or round tip. Postpetiole convex dorsally; postpetiolar sides with another broad, wingshaped, membranaceous expansion with round tip.

Gaster oval. First gastral tergite anterolaterally with a broad membranaceous expansion.

Legs. Mid and hind femora dorsally angulate and with a faint carina on the distal part of their dorsum. Mid and hind basitarsi compressed at the base.

Sculpture. Head dorsum with dense foveae smaller on the anterior fourth. Ventral face of the head reticulate with superficial, dense foveae forming longitudinal rugosities on the anterior part only. Mesosoma and pedicel reticulate-punctate. Mesonotum with irregular, dense foveae, the foveae separated by longitudinal, irregular rugosities on the propodeum only. Pedicel with small, dense foveae. Gaster and legs deeply reticulate and with superficial, small foveae. Thin, longitudinal rugosities on the anterior third of the first gastral tergite. Membranaceous expansions of mesosoma, pedicel and gaster reticulate and with few, thin, longitudinal rugosities.

Pilosity. Each fovea with a decumbent, canaliculate hair; similar hairs but not originating from the foveae on the membranaceous expansions. Hairs on the gaster and on the legs appressed and thinner than those on head and mesosoma. Frontal carinae over the eyes and posterior part of the gastral segments with rare to sparse, erect, clubbed hairs. The sternites bear, in addition rare long, thin, erect, slightly pointed hairs.

Colour. Brown. Frontal carinae orange and semi-transparent. Membranaceous borders of the body yellowish and semi-transparent. Tarsi brown. First gastral tergite anterolaterally with an orange, thin strip almost reaching the end of the tergite.

Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 3.40-4.08; HL 0.84-0.96; HW 0.92-1.08; EL 0.24-0.28; PW 0.74-0.92; PeW 0.44-0.56; PpW 0.48-0.60; HBaL 0.23-0.28; HBaW 0.09-0.11; CI 109.5-112.5; PI 117.4-124.3; PPeI 164.3-168.6; PPpI 153.3-159.2; HBal 39.1-39.3.


Head disc subquadrate, with the border differentiated, irregularly crenulate, raised more on the sides then posteriorly. Sides of the disc not covering completely the eyes and broadening anteriorly. Floor of the disc concave laterally and gently convex in the middle. Vertexal angles obtuse, completely separate from the disc and with marked, irregularly crenulate border. Mandibles laterally carinate and laterally hidden by the frontal carinae.

Mesosoma. Anterior pronotal border gently convex. Humeral angles with a small, obtuse, lateral membranaceous expansion converging posteriorly up to the middle of the pronotum where it continues into the pronotal carina. Posterior half of the pronotal sides strongly converging posteriorly. Pronotal carina higher on the sides than medially, each half gently convex posteriorly. Pronotal suture impressed. Promesonotal suture deeply impressed. Mesonotal sides with a pair of broad, round expansion followed by a pair of minute, pointed denticles. Propodeum with differentiate basal and declivous faces; sides of the basal face with a narrow, crenulate border, the border forming anteriorly a small pair of obtuse teeth directed anteriorly, the rest converging posteriorly. Declivous face of the propodeum with the sides narrowing posteriorly and with a small, membranaceous lateral expansion.

Pedicel as in the worker but with the expansions less broad.

Legs as in the worker but with the dorsal carina less impressed.

Gaster oval, with a narrow, membranaceous expansion not reaching the stigma posteriorly.

Sculpture. Head dorsum, mesosoma and pedicel superficially punctate and covered by large, dense foveae, smaller on the border of the disc, on the clypeus and on the pedicel. Ventral face of the head reticulate and with sparse, superficial foveae and few, thin, irregular rugosities laterally. Declivous face of the propodeum superficially reticulate and with longitudinal, thin rugae. Gaster and legs strongly reticulate and with superficial small foveae.

Pilosity. Each fovea of the head dorsum with an erect hair; each fovea of the mesosoma with a subdecumbent hair; each fovea of the pedicel, of the gaster and of the legs with a decumbent or an appressed hair. Frontal carinae, vertexal angles, mesosoma, posterior border of the gastral tergites and sternites with rare to sparse clubbed hairs. The sternites bear, in addition a few long, thin, slightly pointed hairs.

Colour. As in the worker but with the frontal carinae darker. First gastral tergite with the second third dark brown.

Measurements (in mm) and indices: TL 4.80; HL 1.12; HW 1.32; EL 0.28; PW 1.32; PeW 0.56; PpW 0.60; HBaL 0.30; HBaW 0.12; CI 117.86; PI 100.0; PPeI 235.7; PPpI 220.0; HBaI 40.0.

Type Material

Holotype: worker, Brazil, Goias, Alvorada do Norte, Fazenda Mattos, 08-12.VII.1991, C. R. F. Brandao Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de Sao Paulo. Paratypes: 7 workers, 1 soldier, same data as the holotype MZSP.


Liepini is an anagram of pinelii, the name of a close species.


  • de Andrade, M. L.; Baroni Urbani, C. 1999. Diversity and adaptation in the ant genus Cephalotes, past and present. Stuttgarter Beitrage zur Naturkunde Series B (Geolgie and Palaontologie). 271:1-889. (page 398, figs. 179, 180 soldier, worker described)