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Heteroponera imbellis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Heteroponerinae
Bolton, 2003
3 genera
33 species
Evolutionary Placement



Amblyoponinae - see relationships



Ponerinae - see relationships



Dorylinae - see relationships


Dolichoderinae - see relationships

Myrmeciinae - see relationships within Myrmecia

Pseudomyrmecinae - see relationships

Formicinae - see relationships

Myrmicinae - see relationships



See Phylogeny of Formicidae for details.

The subfamily Heteroponerinae contains a single genus in Australia, Heteroponera. In the New World, there are two genera, Acanthoponera and Heteroponera. There is a single extremely rare genus, Aulacopone, with two dealate queens found in the the Paleartic. In Australia Heteroponera is fairly common although often overlooked. It occurs mainly in forested areas where nests are found in soil and in rotten wood on the ground.


Mesosoma attached to the gaster with a single, distinct segment (the petiole). Gaster with a slight but distinct impression between the first and second segments as this junction differs in structure from the junctions between the remaining segments. Frontal lobes distinct and expanded towards the sides so they cover and hide at least the inner part of the antennal sockets. Forward sections of the frontal lobes and the antennal sockets widely separated by the broadly rounded or triangular rear section of the clypeus which extends between them. Front of the head with a distinct central ridge or carina that extends, uninterrupted, from just above the mandibles to near the top of the head, this ridge generally being distinctly broader than other ridges on the head (when others are present).

Heteroponerinae is most often confused with species of Ectatomminae, especially members of the genus Rhytidoponera. They can be separated by the presence of a distinct central ridge or carina along the top of the head. This ridge is absent in other genera.

AntWeb icon 02.png See images of genera within this subfamily

Keys including this Subfamily

Keys to Genus in this Subfamily


Distribution and Species Richness based on AntMaps


Extant Taxa

Tribes Valid Genera % World Genera Invalid Genera Valid Species/Subsp. % World Species Invalid Species/Subsp.
0 3 0.6% 2 33 0.22% 13

Fossil Taxa

No fossil taxa are known from this subfamily.

List of Tribes and Genera


No tribes within subfamily.

Extant Genera


Fossil Genera

No fossil genera within subfamily.


Karyotype Data

Explore Karyotype Data: All, Drilldown
Click here to show/hide karyotype count data.

Known Haploid Counts: 11, 12.

Haploid Count Details: 11 (Taxon: Heteroponera relicta), 12 (Taxon: Heteroponera dolo).

Known Diploid Counts: 22, 24.

Diploid Count Details: 22 (Taxon: Heteroponera relicta), 24 (Taxon: Heteroponera dolo).


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

  • HETEROPONERINAE [subfamily of Formicidae]
    • Heteroponerinae Bolton, 2003: 46, 176. Type-genus: Heteroponera Mayr, 1887: 532.

Taxonomic History

  • [Heteroponerini Jaffe, 1993: 8 (as tribe of Ponerinae), and Heteroponerini Fernández, et al. 1996: 362 (as tribe of Ponerinae). Unavailable names; in both cases tribe proposed without diagnosis.]
  • Heteroponerinae as poneromorph subfamily of Formicidae: Bolton, 2003: 46, 176.
  • Heteroponerinae as formicoid subfamily of Formicidae: Ouellette, et al. 2006: 365; Moreau, et al. 2006: 102; Brady, et al. 2006: 18173.
  • Heteroponerinae as formicoid ectaheteromorph subfamily of Formicidae: Ward, 2007a: 556.

Taxonomic References

Bolton, 2003: 46, 176 (diagnosis, synopsis); Ouellette, et al. 2006: 359 (phylogeny); Moreau, et al. 2006: 102 (phylogeny); Brady, et al. 2006: 18173 (phylogeny); Ward, 2007a: 556 (classification); Fernández & Arias-Penna, 2008: 31 (Neotropical genera key); Keller, 2011: 1 (morphology, phylogeny); Baccaro, et al. 2015: 81, 192 (Brazil genera key, text); Feitosa, in Delabie, et al. 2015: 33 (phylogeny, taxonomy).

Bolton 2003:

The poneromorph subfamilies

Subfamilies Amblyoponinae, Ectatomminae, Heteroponerinae, Paraponerinae, Ponerinae, Proceratiinae.

Diagnosis Orifice of metapleural gland never concealed by a dorsally located cuticular flange or flap. Propodeal lobes present. Waist of one segment (petiole) that is separated posteriorly from abdominal segment III (first gastral) at least by a constriction (note 1). Helcium sternite retracted, overlapped by the tergite (note 2) (also in male). Abdominal segments III and IV with tergosternal fusion (also in male) (note 3). Abdominal segment IV with presclerites and usually a girdling constriction present between the presclerites and postsclerites (note 4) (also in male). Spiracles of abdominal segments V - VII concealed by posterior margins of preceding tergites. Sting present, usually strongly developed. [Synopsis, p. 153.]

Notes (1) In almost all poneromorphs abdominal segment III varies from slightly larger than IV to slightly smaller than IV. However, in Paraponerini and a few species of Proceratiini segment III is markedly reduced with respect to IV and may be termed sub-postpetiolate. See also notes under myrmicomorphs. (2) Helcium sternite is convex and not overlapped by the tergite only in Discothyrea (Proceratiini). In this respect Discothyrea resembles the dorylomorphs but otherwise their morphologies are very different; the similarity of the helcium is presumed to be by convergence. (3) For distribution of tergosternal fusion of abdominal segment III throughout the family see under dorylomorphs (note 3). Of all the poneromorphs only the monotypic Malagasy amblyoponine genus Adetomyrma lacks tergosternal fusion on abdominal segments III and IV. Whether this is plesiomorphic or a reversal from a previously fused state remains under debate (see discussion in Ward, 1994). It is by no means definite that tergosternal fusion of abdominal segment IV represents a poneromorph synapomorphy. Outside the poneromorphs this fusion is restricted to Tatuidris (Agroecomyrmecini) and Ankylomyrma (Ankylomyrmini). (4) The girdling constriction is usually apparent but in the amblyoponine Adetomyrma sharply differentiated presclerites are absent on abdominal segment IV. In Ponerini the character is variously reduced or lost in such genera as Asphinctopone and Phrynoponera, and in some individual species or species groups within larger genera such as Leptogenys, Anochetus, Odontomachus, Pachycondyla, and also in Simopelta.

Comments (i) The traditional large subfamily Ponerinae is abandoned here and its former components are regrouped as six independent subfamilies. This radical reassessment is because it has become apparent in recent years that the old and long-established concept of a single "subfamily Ponerinae" is no longer defensible. Regarding all the poneromorphs as a single subfamily has probably held back the generation of an accurate phylogeny in this part of Formicidae because "Ponerinae" as a terminal taxon could not be defined in a precise manner. (ii) Despite the lack of an unequivocal synapomorphy the six subfamilies together are treated here under the unofficial group-name poneromorph, to distinguish them from other obvious and often better delimited assemblages of subfamilies, such as the dorylomorphs and formicomorphs. Subfamily Ponerinae is now restricted to tribes Ponerini + Platythyreini + Thaumatomyrmecini.


Diagnosis With characters of poneromorph subfamilies. Cephalic dorsum with a median longitudinal carina that extends from anterior clypeal margin to occipital margin (note 1). Clypeus broadly inserted between frontal lobes. Anterior c1ypeal margin with a narrow lamellar apron (note 2). Torulus not completely fused to frontal lobe. Antennal scrobe usually present. Promesonotal suture present and flexible, the pronotum and mesonotum capable of movement relative to each other. Metacoxal cavities closed, either with a suture in the annulus or fully fused. Metapleural gland orifice simple, directed posteriorly or laterally. Mesotibia and metatibia each with 1 spur. Petiole without tergosternal fusion; laterotergites present. Helcium projects from about the midheight of the anterior face of abdominal segment III; no high vertical anterior face to abdominal segment III above the helcium (note 3). Anterior face of abdominal segment III with an arched carina above the helcium (note 4). Stridulitrum absent from pretergite of abdominal segment IV. Antenna with 12 segments. [Synopsis, p. 176.]

Notes (1) In some Proceratium (Proceratiini) a median carina may be present either on the clypeus or on the anterior head capsule, but not on both. In the Myrmicinae most species of Tetramorium (Tetramoriini) have a longitudinal median cephalic carina. (2) Also present in Ectatomminae and some Myrmicinae. (3) A number of Heteroponera species have the helcium projecting from relatively low down on the anterior face of abdominal segment III and in these the segment has a relatively high anterior face, which may be confused with the characteristic condition seen in Ponerini. (4) Some Heteroponera have apparently secondarily lost the arched carina from above the helcium.

Comments (i) No unequivocal apomorphy of Heteroponerinae is noted in the diagnosis but a number of characters are strongly suspected to have this status: cephalic median carina; antennal scrobes; arched carina above helcium; reduced tibial spurs. No heteroponerines exhibit the apomorphies given for other poneromorph subfamilies. (ii) As a name, Heteroponerini has appeared twice before in the literature but both times in a taxonomically unavailable way; it therefore appears here as new.


  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and classification of Formicidae. Mem. Amer. Entomol. Inst. 71:1-370.
  • Fernández, F. 1993. Hormigas de Colombia III: los generos Acanthoponera Mayr, Heteroponera Mayr y Paraponera Fr. Smith. Caldasia 17: 249-258.