Neoponera commutata

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Neoponera commutata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Neoponera
Species: N. commutata
Binomial name
Neoponera commutata
(Roger, 1860)

Pachycondyla commutata casent0217554 p 1 high.jpg

Pachycondyla commutata casent0217554 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels

This species is a group raiding ant that preys on leaf cutting termites.

At a Glance • Termite specialist  



From Mackay and Mackay (2010): The worker and female of N. commutata are easily recognized by their large size and mostly shining integument. Neoponera commutata can be separated from the three other shiny black species (Neoponera carbonaria, Neoponera marginata and Neoponera laevigata) by their larger size. Occasionally workers of N. laevigata are nearly as large, but differ in the shape of the petiole. The apex of the petiole of N. commutata is highest near the posterior edge; the dorsum of the petiole of N. laevigata is at approximately the same height over the entire dorsal face. The mandibles of N. commutata are dull and covered with striae; they are smooth and glossy in N. laevigata.


Central America through central South America (Mackay and Mackay 2010)

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Specimens have been collected in tropical rain forests along jungle trails (Hermann, 1968), in open savannah and on the shady forest floor (Wheeler, 1936) and tropical semi-humid forest (Mill, 1983). One series was collected at 250 m, another at 580m. (Mackay and Mackay 2010)


From Mackay and Mackay (2010): Mill (1984) found a density of 10 colonies per hectare in Brasil. A dealate female was collected in December (Ecuador).

This is a group raiding species in which stridulation causes an escape behavior among the other workers (Hermann, 1968). Nests have about 400 workers and they are group mass recruitment foragers, which prey exclusively on three species termites in the leaf-cutting genus Syntermes spp. (Wheeler, 1936), especially S. molestus (Mill, 1982a, 1982b, 1984). The other two species of termites are S. solidus and S. calvus (Mill, 1984). Wheeler (1936) reported they feed on S. chaquemayensis, S. territus, S. snyderi, S. grandis and S. brasiliensis. Foragers employ two different modes of searching for termite prey (Mill, 1982a). The first involves a forager encountering a foraging column of termites. She returns to the nest laying a pheromone trail. She leads other workers back to attack the termites. They stockpile the dead and wounded termites and each ant often returns to the nest with two or more termites (Mill, 1984). The second method involves a group of foragers (20 - 117 workers - Mill, 1984), which work together, or may separate into smaller groups of individuals (Mill, 1984). When a worker encounters termites she stridulates to attract the other ants and they attack as a group. Stridulation by a worker may result in the other foragers scattering into the surrounding litter (Mill, 1984). Termites instantly become immobile when stung (Mill, 1984).

They may be parasitized by a phorid fly (see Wheeler, 1936:174). The workers from different colonies are antagonistic and individuals may be killed (Mill, 1984).

This species is associated with menarche and female initiation rites in the Tupi-Guarani language family in South America (Balée, 2000).

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 400 (Mill, 1982, 1984; Beckers et al., 1989)
  • Foraging behaviour: mass recruiter (Mill, 1982, 1984; Beckers et al., 1989)




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

  • commutata. Ponera commutata Roger, 1860: 311 (w.) SOUTH AMERICA. Wheeler, W.M. 1936d: 170 (q.); Borgmeier, 1959a: 313 (m.). Combination in Pachycondyla: Emery, 1890a: 72; in Neoponera: Emery, 1901a: 47; in Termitopone (Syntermitopone): Wheeler, W.M. 1936d: 169; in Pachycondyla: Brown, in Bolton, 1995b: 304; in Neoponera: Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 151. [Emery, 1892b: 163, suggests that this name may be synonymous with Formica ovata Reich, 1793: 132 but the latter is unidentifiable to genus: Bolton, 1995b: 304 (see under Formica).] See also: Mackay & Mackay, 2010: 257.

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



From Mackay and Mackay (2010): The worker is a large (total length 17 mm) shining black ant. The mandibles have many teeth, the anterior border of the clypeus is broadly convex, the eye is large (maximum diameter 1 mm), much greater in length than the distance between the anterior edge of the eye and the anterior edge of the head (side view). The scapes extend about the first two funicular segments past the posterior lateral corner of the head. The malar carina is present, but the pronotal carina is absent. The mesosoma is depressed at the metanotal suture, which is well marked on the dorsum. The propodeal spiracle is elongated. The petiole is wide when viewed in profile with the anterior and posterior faces being almost parallel and with the dorsal face rounded and forming the highest point near the posterior edge of the petiole. The posterior lateral carina of the petiole is well developed and sharp. The stridulatory file on the second pretergite is present, the arolia are poorly developed.

Erect and suberect hairs are abundant on most surfaces; appressed golden pubescence is sparse, except near the insertions of the antennae, on the anterior edge of the pronotum and on the middle and posterior coxae.

Most surfaces are shiny black, striae cover much of the dorsum of the head, diverging posteriorly and converging on the ventral surface of the head. The side of the propodeum has obvious oblique striae.


From Mackay and Mackay (2010): The female is a large (total length 19 mm) shining black ant. The head and the side of the mesosoma are covered with striae. The eyes are large, covering about one third of the side of the head and located about one half of their maximum diameter from the anterior margin of the head. The malar carina is well developed, but the pronotal carina is absent. The propodeal spiracle is slit-shaped. The petiole is similar to that of the worker with the anterior face being nearly straight and meeting the broadly rounded posterior face at the apex and with the posterior lateral margins forming sharp carinae.

The pilosity and sculpture are similar to those of the worker.


Males are not known for this species.

Type Material

South America


Apparently the name of this species is derived from the Greek words kommos meaning embellishment and the intensifier tatos, meaning they are really shiny. (Mackay and Mackay 2010)


  • Balée, W. 2000. Antiquity of traditional ethnobiological knowledge in Amazonia: the Tupí-Guaraní family and time. Ethno-history 47:399-422.
  • Beckers R., Goss, S., Deneubourg, J.L., Pasteels, J.M. 1989. Colony size, communication and ant foraging Strategy. Psyche 96: 239-256 (doi:10.1155/1989/94279).
  • Borgmeier, T. 1959a. Myrmecologische Studien. II. An. Acad. Bras. Cienc. 31: 309-319 (page 313, male described)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1995a. [Untitled. Taxonomic changes in Pachycondyla attributed to Brown.] Pp. 302-311 in: Bolton, B. A new general catalogue of the ants of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 504 pp. (page 304, Combination in Pachycondyla)
  • Emery, C. 1890a [1889]. Alcune considerazioni sulla fauna mirmecologica dell'Africa. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 21: 69-75 (page 72, Combination in Pachycondyla)
  • Emery, C. 1901b. Notes sur les sous-familles des Dorylines et Ponérines (Famille des Formicides). Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 45: 32-54 (page 47, Combination in Neoponera)
  • Hermann, H. R. 1968. Group raiding in Termitopone commutata (Roger) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of the Georgia Entomological Society 3:23-24.
  • Mackay, W. P., and E. E. Mackay 2010. The Systematics and Biology of the New World Ants of the Genus Pachycondyla (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Edwin Mellon Press, Lewiston. Information from this publication is used with permission from the authors.
  • Mill, A. E. 1982a. Faunal studies on termites (Isoptera) and observations on their ant predators (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Amazon Basin. Revista brasilera de Entomologia 26:253-260.
  • Mill, A. E. 1982b. Emigration of a colony of the giant termite hunter, Pachycondyla commutata (Roger) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Entomologist's Monthly Magazine 118:243-245.
  • Mill, A. E. 1983. Observations on Brazilian termite alate swarms and some structures used in the dispersal of reproductives (Isoptera: Termitidae). Journal of Natural History 17:309-320.
  • Mill, A. E. 1984. Predation by the ponerine ant Pachycondyla commutata on termites of the genus Syntermes in Amazonian rain forest. Journal of Natural History 18:405-410.
  • Roger, J. 1860. Die Ponera-artigen Ameisen. Berl. Entomol. Z. 4: 278-312 (page 311, worker described)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1936e. Ecological relations of ponerine and other ants to termites. Proc. Am. Acad. Arts Sci. 71: 159-243 (page 170, queen described)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1936e. Ecological relations of ponerine and other ants to termites. Proc. Am. Acad. Arts Sci. 71: 159-243 (page 169, Combination in Termitopone (Syntermitopone))
  • Schmidt, C.A. & Shattuck, S.O. 2014. The higher classification of the ant subfamily Ponerinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with a review of ponerine ecology and behavior. Zootaxa 3817, 1–242 (doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3817.1.1).