Myrmecia

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Myrmecia
Myrmecia gulosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmeciinae
Tribe: Myrmeciini
Genus: Myrmecia
Fabricius, 1804
Type species
Formica gulosa, now Myrmecia gulosa
Diversity
93 species
(Species Checklist)

Myrmecia gulosa casent0103310 profile 1.jpg

Myrmecia gulosa

Myrmecia gulosa casent0103310 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Synonyms

Heterick (2009) - Myrmecia are principally predators, but also garner nectar and plant juices (Shattuck 1999). The sting of at least some of these species can be dangerous, even life threatening to people who have a sensitivity to hymenopteran (i.e. bee, ant and wasp) venoms (Street et al. 1994).

Identification

This genus has been divided into a number of species groups.  

Keys to Species in this Genus

Distribution

Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps

Biology

Vision and activity schedules

With more than 3000 facets in each eye, Myrmecia have the second largest eyes in the ant world (Greiner et al. 2007) and are unusually responsive to moving visual targets. Workers of different species range from diurnal, diurnal-crepuscular, crepuscular-nocturnal to nocturnal. However the activity times of conspecific winged sexuals do not always match. This behavioural diversity correlates with interspecific and caste-specific differences in compound eyes and ocelli (Narendra et al. 2010). Ajay Narendra has studied vision and navigation in the nocturnal Myrmecia pyriformis (see references therein).

Range of head and eye sizes in workers, queens and males of Myrmecia croslandi, M. tarsata, M. nigriceps and M. pyriformis. From Narendra et al. 2010

Mating biology

Studied in four species by Narendra et al. 2011 - Sexuals walk out of natal nests, climb the nearest tree and fly off from the tips of branches (Myrmecia croslandi), or walk away (Myrmecia tarsata) or fly from the vicinity of the nest (Myrmecia nigriceps and Myrmecia pyriformis). Mating in all species occurred on hilltops. We recorded 18 matings in M. croslandi, six in M. tarsata and 23 in M. nigriceps. We did not witness mating in M. pyriformis, but are confident that alates did not leave the nest during the night.

Human Health Concerns

The stings of one species group of Myrmecia (the M. pilosula group) can cause a strong anaphylactic reaction in some people. The severity of this reaction can develop over time, with initial stings causing no particular reaction while subsequent stings can have serious consequences. People with known sensitivities to these ants often carry an EpiPen or similar device to counteract the affects of a sting.

Castes

Myrmecia queen.jpg

Myrmecia queen.

Queen-worker dimorphism in size is moderate to pronounced, according to species (Peeters 1997). Myrmecia chasei exhibits the largest size dimorphism between winged queens and workers. Several species evolved non-flying queens. Brachypterous (i.e. short-winged) queens and ergatoid (permanently wingless) queens disperse on foot (Clark 1951; Haskins & Haskins 1955). Gamergates (mated, egg-laying workers) were found in one colony of Myrmecia pyriformis that was collected without the dealate queen (Dietemann et al. 2004), but a larger sample of colonies needs to be studied.

In Myrmecia gulosa, 14 colonies contained an average of 992 +/- 551 workers (average+/-standard deviation, range 134–1859), and usually one dealate queen. Workers are polymorphic in size (14-23 mm, from tip of mandibles to gaster end), and this is associated with differences in ovariole numbers (Dietemann et al. 2002). Queens are not much larger than the major workers, but have disproportionately more ovarioles and a 10-fold higher egg-laying rate. (See References.)

Ovarian differences in the queen (left), major (bottom right) and minor workers of Myrmecia gulosa. Photograph by Christian Peeters

Larva

Myrmecia gracilis larva collected by Bede Lowery

Wheeler and Wheeler describe the larvae of several species of Myrmecia in 1971.

Morphology

Worker Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 12 • Antennal club absent • Palp formula 6,4 • Total dental count 9-18 • Spur formula 2 pectinate, 2 pectinate; 2 (1 simple-barbulate, 1 barbulate-pectinate), 2 simple, 2 (1 simple, 1 pectinate); 2 simple, 2 (1 simple, 1 pectinate) • Eyes present • Scrobes absent • Caste polymorphic • Sting present

Karyotype

Species Uncertain

  • Myrmecia sp. cf. fulvipes: n = 6, 2n = 12, karyotype = 8M+4ST (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977) (as cf. fulvipes).
  • Myrmecia sp.2: 2n = 68 (Indonesia) (Imai et al., 1985).

All Karyotype Records for Genus

Explore Karyotype Data: All, Drilldown
Taxon Haploid Diploid Karyotype Locality Source Notes
Myrmecia 68 Indonesia Imai et al., 1985
Myrmecia 6 12 8M+4ST Australia Imai et al., 1977 as cf. ''fulvipes''
Myrmecia arnoldi 53 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia arnoldi 55 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia arnoldi 57 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia arnoldi 59 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia arnoldi 60 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia arnoldi 60 Australia Meyne et al., 1995
Myrmecia arnoldi 64 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia arnoldi 66 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia banksi 10 Australia Imai et al., 1994; Hirai et al., 1994; Hirai et al., 1996; Taylor, 2015
Myrmecia banksi 9 Australia Imai et al., 1977; Imai et al., 1994; Taylor, 2015 putative mutant individual
Myrmecia brevinoda 84 Australia Imai et al., 1977
Myrmecia cephalotes 66 Australia Imai et al., 1977
Myrmecia chasei 47 Australia Meyne et al., 1995; Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia croslandi 1 2 Australia Taylor, 1991; Meyne et al., 1995; Hirai et al., 1994; Hirai et al., 1996; Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia croslandi 2 3 1M+1M+1A Australia Taylor, 1991; Meyne et al., 1995; Hirai et al., 1994; Hirai et al., 1996; Imai et al., 1992; Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia croslandi 2 3 1M+1SM +1M Australia Taylor, 1991; Meyne et al., 1995; Hirai et al., 1994; Hirai et al., 1996; Imai et al., 1992; Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia croslandi 2 4 2SM +1A+1A Australia Taylor, 1991; Meyne et al., 1995; Hirai et al., 1996; Imai et al., 1992; Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia forficata 50 44M+6A Australia Imai et al., 1977
Myrmecia forficata 51 Australia Imai et al., 1977
Myrmecia forficata 52 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia forficata 52 Australia Meyne et al., 1995
Myrmecia forficata 54 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia fulvipes 48 Australia Meyne et al., 1995; Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia fulvipes 50 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia fulvipes 30 60 Australia Imai et al., 1977
Myrmecia gulosa 38 Australia Imai et al., 1977; Meyne et al., 1995; Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia haskinsorum 12 Australia Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia haskinsorum 15 Australia Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia haskinsorum 17 Australia Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia haskinsorum 18 Australia Imai et al., 1994; Meyne et al., 1995; Hirai et al., 1996 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia haskinsorum 20 Australia Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia haskinsorum 23 Australia Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia haskinsorum 24 Australia Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia imaii 6 Australia Imai et al., 1994 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia imaii 8 8A Australia Imai et al., 1994; Hirai et al., 1994; Hirai et al., 1996 Complex ''pilosula''
Myrmecia mandibularis 27 56 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia mandibularis 28 56 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia michaelseni 27 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia occidentalis 64 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia pavida 44 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia piliventris 6 Australia Imai & Taylor, 1986; Imai et al., 1988a
Myrmecia piliventris 17 34 Australia Imai & Taylor, 1986; Imai et al., 1988a
Myrmecia piliventris 2 4 4ST Australia Imai & Taylor, 1986; Imai et al., 1988a
Myrmecia piliventris 32 64 Australia Imai & Taylor, 1986; Imai et al., 1988a
Myrmecia pilosula 10 Australia Imai et al., 1977; Crossland & Crozier, 1986; Crosland et al., 1988 as ''Myrmecia ruginoda'' or ''Ponera ruginoda''
Myrmecia pilosula 16 Australia Crossland & Crozier, 1986
Myrmecia pilosula 18 Australia Crosland et al., 1988
Myrmecia pilosula 19 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia pilosula 2 Australia Crosland et al., 1988; Imai et al., 1988b; Imai & Taylor, 1989
Myrmecia pilosula 20 Australia Crosland et al., 1988
Myrmecia pilosula 21 Australia Crosland et al., 1988
Myrmecia pilosula 22 Australia Crosland et al., 1988
Myrmecia pilosula 22 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia pilosula 23 Australia Crosland et al., 1988; Imai et al., 1988a
Myrmecia pilosula 23 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia pilosula 23 Australia Imai et al., 1994
Myrmecia pilosula 23 Australia Meyne et al., 1995
Myrmecia pilosula 24 Australia Crossland & Crozier, 1986
Myrmecia pilosula 24 Australia Crosland et al., 1988; Imai et al., 1988a
Myrmecia pilosula 24 Australia Imai et al., 1994
Myrmecia pilosula 25 Australia Crosland et al., 1988; Imai et al., 1988a
Myrmecia pilosula 26 Australia Crosland et al., 1988; Imai et al., 1988a
Myrmecia pilosula 26 Australia Imai et al., 1994
Myrmecia pilosula 27 Australia Crosland et al., 1988
Myrmecia pilosula 27 Australia Hirai et al., 1994
Myrmecia pilosula 27 Australia Imai et al., 1994
Myrmecia pilosula 30 Australia Crossland & Crozier, 1986; Crosland et al., 1988
Myrmecia pilosula 31 Australia Imai et al., 1977; Crossland & Crozier, 1986; Crosland et al., 1988; Imai et al., 1988a as ''Myrmecia ruginoda'' or ''Ponera ruginoda''
Myrmecia pilosula 32 Australia Imai et al., 1977; Crossland & Crozier, 1986; Crosland et al., 1988; Imai et al., 1988a as ''Myrmecia ruginoda'' or ''Ponera ruginoda''
Myrmecia pilosula 32 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia pilosula 32 Australia Meyne et al., 1995
Myrmecia pilosula 4 Australia Imai et al., 1988b; Imai & Taylor, 1989
Myrmecia pilosula 9 Australia Imai et al., 1977; Crossland & Crozier, 1986; Crosland et al., 1988 as ''Myrmecia ruginoda'' or ''Ponera ruginoda''
Myrmecia pilosula 1 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Tridbinbilla
Myrmecia pilosula 1 19 Australia Crosland et al., 1988
Myrmecia pilosula 10 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Lawson
Myrmecia pilosula 10 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Mt Victoria
Myrmecia pilosula 10 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Wentworth Falls
Myrmecia pilosula 11 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Lawson
Myrmecia pilosula 11 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Mt Victoria
Myrmecia pilosula 13 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Mt Victoria
Myrmecia pilosula 15 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Mt Victoria
Myrmecia pilosula 15 Australia Crozier, 1966
Myrmecia pilosula 16 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Piccadilly Circus
Myrmecia pilosula 5 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from HMAS Albatross
Myrmecia pilosula 9 Australia Crosland et al., 1988 Population from Wentworth Falls
Myrmecia pyriformis 41 81 Australia Imai et al., 1977
Myrmecia simillima 35 70 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia tepperi 70 Australia Browning, 1987
Myrmecia vindex 74 Australia Hirai et al., 1996
Myrmecia vindex 76 Australia Hirai et al., 1996

Nomenclature

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

  • MYRMECIA [Myrmeciinae: Myrmeciini]
    • Myrmecia Fabricius, 1804: 423. Type-species: Formica gulosa, by subsequent designation of Shuckard, in Swainson & Shuckard, 1840: 173.
    • Myrmecia senior synonym of Promyrmecia (and its junior synonyms Halmamyrmecia, Pristomyrmecia): Brown, 1953c: 1.
  • HALMAMYRMECIA [junior synonym of Myrmecia]
    • Halmamyrmecia Wheeler, W.M. 1922b: 195 [as subgenus of Myrmecia]. Type-species: Myrmecia pilosula, by original designation.
    • Halmamyrmecia junior synonym of Promyrmecia: Clark, 1927: 37; Clark, 1951: 119.
    • Halmamyrmecia junior synonym of Myrmecia: Brown, 1953j: 1.
  • PRISTOMYRMECIA [junior synonym of Myrmecia]
    • Pristomyrmecia Emery, 1911d: 21 [as subgenus of Myrmecia]. Type-species: Myrmecia mandibularis, by original designation.
    • Pristomyrmecia junior synonym of Promyrmecia: Clark, 1927: 37; Clark, 1951: 119.
    • Pristomyrmecia junior synonym of Myrmecia: Brown, 1953j: 1.
  • PROMYRMECIA [junior synonym of Myrmecia]
    • Promyrmecia Emery, 1911d: 19 [as subgenus of Myrmecia]. Type-species: Myrmecia aberrans, by original designation.
    • Promyrmecia raised to genus: Clark, 1943: 84.
    • Promyrmecia senior synonym of Halmamyrmecia, Pristomyrmecia: Clark, 1927: 37; Clark, 1943: 84; Clark, 1951: 119.
    • Promyrmecia junior synonym of Myrmecia: Brown, 1953j: 1.

References

Biology and caste

Taxonomy

  • Ashmead, W. H. 1905c. A skeleton of a new arrangement of the families, subfamilies, tribes and genera of the ants, or the superfamily Formicoidea. Can. Entomol. 37: 381-384 (page 382, Myrmecia in Poneridae, Myrmeciinae)
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 132, Myrmecia in Myrmeciinae, Myrmeciini)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1953c. Characters and synonymies among the genera of ants. Part I. Breviora 11: 1-13 (page 1, Myrmecia senior synonym of Promyrmecia (and its junior synonyms Halmamyrmecia, Pristomyrmecia).)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1953j. Revisionary notes on the ant genus Myrmecia of Australia. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 111: 1-35 (page 1, Revision of genus)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1954e. Remarks on the internal phylogeny and subfamily classification of the family Formicidae. Insectes Soc. 1: 21-31 (page 23, Myrmecia in Myrmeciinae)
  • Clark, J. 1934c. Ants from the Otway Ranges. Mem. Natl. Mus. Vic. 8: 48-73 (page 50, Myrmecia in Ponerinae, Myrmeciini)
  • Clark, J. 1943. A revision of the genus Promyrmecia Emery (Formicidae). Mem. Natl. Mus. Vic. 13: 83-149 (page 83, Revision of genus)
  • Clark, J. 1951. The Formicidae of Australia. Vol. 1. Subfamily Myrmeciinae. Melbourne: CSIRO, 230 pp. (page 16, Myrmecia in Myrmeciinae (in key))
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 19, Myrmecia in Ponerinae)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1943g. A list of the type-species of the genera and subgenera of the Formicidae. [part]. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 11(10): 617-688 (page 665, Myrmecia in Ponerinae, Myrmeciini)
  • Emery, C. 1877b. Saggio di un ordinamento naturale dei Mirmicidei, e considerazioni sulla filogenesi delle formiche. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 9: 67-83 (page 81, Myrmecia in Myrmicidae, Myrmeciidae)
  • Emery, C. 1895l. Die Gattung Dorylus Fab. und die systematische Eintheilung der Formiciden. Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 685-778 (page 766, Myrmecia in Ponerinae, Myrmeciini [Myrmecii])
  • Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 17, Myrmecia in Ponerinae, Myrmeciini)
  • Fabricius, J. C. 1804. Systema Piezatorum secundum ordines, genera, species, adjectis synonymis, locis, observationibus, descriptionibus. Brunswick: C. Reichard, xiv + 15-439 + 30 pp. (page 423, Myrmecia as genus)
  • Forel, A. 1893b. Sur la classification de la famille des Formicides, avec remarques synonymiques. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 37: 161-167 (page 162, Myrmecia in Ponerinae, Myrmeciini [Myrmecii])
  • Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 235, Myrmecia in Ponerinae, Myrmeciini)
  • Heterick, B. E. 2009. A guide to the ants of South-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 76:1-206. 'PDF
  • Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 714, Myrmecia in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
  • Mayr, G. 1865. Formicidae. In: Reise der Österreichischen Fregatte "Novara" um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859. Zoologischer Theil. Bd. II. Abt. 1. Wien: K. Gerold's Sohn, 119 pp. (page 18, Myrmecia in Myrmicinae [Myrmicidae])
  • Mayr, G. 1866b. Diagnosen neuer und wenig gekannter Formiciden. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 16: 885-908 (page 896, Myrmecia in Myrmicinae [Myrmicidae])
  • Ogata, K. 1991a. Ants of the genus Myrmecia Fabricius: a review of the species groups and their phylogenetic relationships (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmeciinae). Syst. Entomol. 16: 353-381 (page 353, Revision of genus)
  • Ogata, K.; Taylor, R. W. 1991. Ants of the genus Myrmecia Fabricius: a preliminary review and key to the named species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmeciinae). J. Nat. Hist. 2 25: 1623-1673 (page 1623, Revision of genus)
  • Smith, F. 1858a. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Formicidae. London: British Museum, 216 pp. (page 143, Myrmecia in Poneridae, Myrmicidae)
  • Swainson W.; Shuckard, W. E. 1840. On the history and natural arrangement of insects. London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longman's, 406 pp. (page 173, Type-species: Formica gulosa, by subsequent designation)
  • [1] Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1971d. Ant larvae of the subfamily Myrmeciinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pan-Pac. Entomol. 47: 245-256
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 134, Myrmecia in Ponerinae, Myrmeciini [Myrmecii])
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1922i. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. VII. Keys to the genera and subgenera of ants. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 45: 631-710 (page 640, Myrmecia in Ponerinae, Myrmeciini)