Harpegnathos saltator

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Harpegnathos saltator
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Harpegnathos
Species: H. saltator
Binomial name
Harpegnathos saltator
Jerdon, 1851

Harpegnathos saltator casent0101783 profile 1.jpg

Harpegnathos saltator casent0101783 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

At a Glance • Gamergate  


Photo Gallery

  • Worker with prey. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
  • Inside the underground nest of H. saltator. Photo by Bert Hölldobler.
  • Harpegnathos saltator worker from Kerala, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
  • Harpegnathos saltator worker from Kerala, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
  • Harpegnathos saltator worker from Kerala, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.



Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Oriental Region: India (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Nesting Habits

Entrance tunnel leading down to a small nest of H. saltator The floor of one chamber can be seen to be wallpapered with empty cocoons. Photo by Bert Hölldobler.

The nests of H. saltator are exceptionally complex by ponerine standards (Peeters et al. 1994). In a mature colony the nest consists of a series of stacked chambers forming a nearly spherical structure, surmounted by a thick vaulted roof and separated from the surrounding soil by a hollow space. A tunnel leads down to a separate refuse chamber. Peeters & Hölldobler (1995) hypothesized that this nest design is an adaptation to survive periodic flooding. In addition, H. saltator “wallpapers” inner surfaces of its nests with discarded cocoons. This wallpaper is glued down and may help to keep the chambers dry. See Nests.

Queens and workers are morphologically similar (except for wings) and gamergates reproduce once the founding queen has died. In these two categories of egg-layers, the proportions of Cuticular Hydrocarbons change in a similar way with the onset of ovarian activity, while young virgin queens resemble infertile workers (Liebig et al. 2000). Thus the hydrocarbons are not related to morphological caste but to reproductive physiology.


Harpegnathos saltator has had their entire genome sequenced.

Palomeque et al. (2015) found class II mariner elements, a form of transposable elements, in the genome of this ant.



The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • saltator. Harpegnathos saltator Jerdon, 1851: 117 (w.) INDIA. Combination in Drepanognathus: Smith, F. 1858b: 82; in Harpegnathos: Forel, 1900c: 64; Emery, 1911d: 59. Forel, 1913e: 660 (q.m.). Current subspecies: nominal plus cruentatus, taprobanae. See also: Bingham, 1903: 50.



  • Bingham, C. T. 1903. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Hymenoptera, Vol. II. Ants and Cuckoo-wasps. London: Taylor and Francis, 506 pp. (page 50, see also)
  • Bonasio, B., Zhang, G., et al. (2010) Genomic Comparison of the Ants Camponotus floridanus and Harpegnathos saltator. Science. 329(5995):1068-1071. doi:10.1126/science.1192428
  • Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 59, Combination in Harpegnathos)
  • Forel, A. 1900d. Les Formicides de l'Empire des Indes et de Ceylan. Part VI. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 13: 52-65 (page 64, Combination in Harpegnathos)
  • Forel, A. 1913f. Quelques fourmis des Indes, du Japon et d'Afrique. Rev. Suisse Zool. 21: 659-673 (page 660, queen, male described)
  • Jerdon, T. C. 1851. A catalogue of the species of ants found in Southern India. Madras J. Lit. Sci. 17: 103-127 (page 117, worker described)
  • Palomeque, T., O. Sanllorente, X. Maside, J. Vela, P. Mora, M. I. Torres, G. Periquet, and P. Lorite. 2015. Evolutionary history of the Azteca-like mariner transposons and their host ants. Science of Nature. 102. doi:10.1007/s00114-015-1294-3
  • Peeters, C., B. Hölldobler, M. Moffett & T. Musthak Ali 1994. "Wall-papering" and elaborate nest architecture in the ponerine ant Harpegnathos saltator. Insectes Sociaux 41: 211-218. PDF
  • Peeters C, Holldobler B (1995) Reproductive cooperation between queens and their mated workers: the complex life history of an ant with a valuable nest. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 92:10977–10979.
  • Shivashankar T., H.C. Sharathchandra & G.K. Veeresh. 1989. Foraging activity and temperature relations in the ponerine ant Harpegnathos saltator Jerdon (Formicidae). Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Science (Animal Science) 98(5), 367-372.
  • Smith, F. 1858a. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Formicidae. London: British Museum, 216 pp. (page 82, Combination in Drepanognathus)