Sericomyrmex saussurei

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Sericomyrmex saussurei
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Sericomyrmex
Species: S. saussurei
Binomial name
Sericomyrmex saussurei
Emery, 1894

Sericomyrmex saussurei usnment00445513 p 1 high.jpg

Sericomyrmex saussurei usnment00445513 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels


A well collected species with a broad distribution across northern South America. Collections of this species have been from forested areas and cerrado. The biology of Sericomyrmex saussurei has not been studied, general details about the biology of the genus are given here.


Ješovnik & Schultz (2017) - Medium-sized species; mandible usually dorsally striate, frontal carina complete; frontal lobe triangular; eye convex, moderately protruding from sides of head, covered with thick white layer; posterior cephalic emargination abruptly to gradually impressed, mesosomal tubercles from low and obtuse to well developed; first gastral tergite with lateral carinae well developed, dorsal carinae weak to well developed.

The species most similar to S. saussurei is its sister species Sericomyrmex amabilis, but amabilis can easily be distinguished by its more or less flat eyes lacking the white layer, and usually by geography. Sericomyrmex mayri, which, like S. saussurei has striate mandibles, is larger, has a wider head, and flat eyes without a white layer. The smaller species Sericomyrmex parvulus and Sericomyrmex opacus may have a similar white layer over the eyes, but their eyes are small and flat, and the white layer is thinner than in saussurei, sometimes incomplete and with individual ommatidia still distinguishable. Also, both parvulus and opacus have smooth mandibles. The white layer is not as distinct in the queen of S. saussurei, but the combination of body size, pilosity, and frontal lobe shape are enough to separate the S. saussurei queen from those of the sympatric mayri, bondari, and parvulus.

Keys including this Species


Ješovnik & Schultz (2017) - Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela.

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 18.77° to -28.0968°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Brazil (type locality), Guyana (type locality), Trinidad and Tobago (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Countries Occupied

Number of countries occupied by this species based on AntWiki Regional Taxon Lists. In general, fewer countries occupied indicates a narrower range, while more countries indicates a more widespread species.

Estimated Abundance

Relative abundance based on number of AntMaps records per species (this species within the purple bar). Fewer records (to the left) indicates a less abundant/encountered species while more records (to the right) indicates more abundant/encountered species.


Explore-icon.png Explore Fungus Growing 
For additional details see Fungus growing ants.

A handful of ant species (approx. 275 out of the known 15,000 species) have developed the ability to cultivate fungus within their nests. In most species the fungus is used as the sole food source for the larvae and is an important resource for the adults as well. Additionally, in a limited number of cases, the fungus is used to construct part of the nest structure but is not as a food source.

These fungus-feeding species are limited to North and South America, extending from the pine barrens of New Jersey, United States, in the north (Trachymyrmex septentrionalis) to the cold deserts in Argentina in the south (several species of Acromyrmex). Species that use fungi in nest construction are known from Europe and Africa (a few species in the genera Crematogaster, Lasius).

The details of fungal cultivation are rich and complex. First, a wide variety of materials are used as substrate for fungus cultivating. The so-called lower genera include species that prefer dead vegetation, seeds, flowers, fruits, insect corpses, and feces, which are collected in the vicinity of their nests. The higher genera include non leaf-cutting species that collect mostly fallen leaflets, fruit, and flowers, as well as the leafcutters that collect fresh leaves from shrubs and trees. Second, while the majority of fungi that are farmed by fungus-feeding ants belong to the family Lepiotaceae, mostly the genera Leucoagaricus and Leucocoprinus, other fungi are also involved. Some species utilise fungi in the family Tricholomataceae while a few others cultivate yeast. The fungi used by the higher genera no longer produce spores. Their fungi produce nutritious and swollen hyphal tips (gongylidia) that grow in bundles called staphylae, to specifically feed the ants. Finally, colony size varies tremendously among these ants. Lower taxa mostly live in inconspicuous nests with 100–1000 individuals and relatively small fungus gardens. Higher taxa, in contrast, live in colonies made of 5–10 million ants that live and work within hundreds of interconnected fungus-bearing chambers in huge subterranean nests. Some colonies are so large, they can be seen from satellite photos, measuring up to 600 m3.

Based on these habits, and taking phylogenetic information into consideration, these ants can be divided into six biologically distinct agricultural systems (with a list of genera involved in each category):

Nest Construction

A limited number of species that use fungi in the construction of their nests.

Lower Agriculture

Practiced by species in the majority of fungus-feeding genera, including those thought to retain more primitive features, which cultivate a wide range of fungal species in the tribe Leucocoprineae.

Coral Fungus Agriculture

Practiced by species in the Apterostigma pilosum species-group, which cultivate fungi within the Pterulaceae.

Yeast Agriculture

Practiced by species within the Cyphomyrmex rimosus species-group, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi derived from the lower attine fungi.

Generalized Higher Agriculture

Practiced by species in several genera of non-leaf-cutting "higher attine" ants, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi separately derived from the lower attine fungi.

Leaf-Cutter Agriculture

A subdivision of higher attine agriculture practiced by species within several ecologically dominant genera, which cultivate a single highly derived species of higher attine fungus.

Note that the farming habits of Mycetagroicus (4 species) are unknown. Also, while species of Pseudoatta (2 species) are closely related to the fungus-feeding genus Acromyrmex, they are social parasites, living in the nests of their hosts and are not actively involved in fungus growing. ‎

Castano-Meneses et al (2017) - The springtail species Cyphoderus agnotus Börner (Cyphoderidae: Cyphoderus), Cyphoderus similis Börner (Cyphoderidae: Cyphoderus) and Proisotoma minima (Absolon) (Collembola: Isotomidae) are known from nests of this ant.


Ješovnik & Schultz (2017) - Interestingly, the white layer on the eyes of saussurei is exceptionally consistent compared to character-state distributions in other Sericomyrmex species. In fact, it is among the most consistent of all morphological characters across all Sericomyrmex species. In all specimens of S. saussurei examined, from across a large geographic range, the eyes are convex and covered with a thick white layer. Similar white layers are also seen in parvulus and opacus. In those species, however, the layer itself is thinner and often incomplete, and the eyes are generally smaller and flat, creating a distinctly different appearance. Also, in both parvulus and opacus the layer is completely absent in some individuals or populations. In the remaining species of Sericomyrmex the eyes are uncoated, without a white layer. It would be interesting to determine the biological significance of this layer and to analyze its chemical properties. Based on our SEM images it seems to be an extension of the waxy, crystal-like cuticular layer found on the integuments of workers and queens in all Sericomyrmex species, but which is absent in males and in callow workers, as well as in some individuals of Sericomyrmex maravalhas. Why this layer extends to and completely covers the eyes in some species but not others remains unknown.


Figure 56.
Figure 57.

Jesovnik and Schultz 2017. Figure 56. S. saussurei worker; head, profile, and dorsal view. Striate-mandibled form (USN-MENT01125217) (a, c, e). Smooth-mandibled form (USNMENT01125221) (b, d, f). Figure 57. S. saussurei worker (USNMENT01126237), SEM images. a Head, full-face view b mandibles c mesosoma, lateral view d metasoma, lateral view e eyes completely covered with white layer, individual ommatidia not visible f eyes with thick white layer, ommatidia visible through small holes in the layer.

Figure 58.
Figure 59.

Jesovnik and Schultz 2017. Figure 58. S. saussurei queen and male; head, lateral profile, and dorsal view. Queen (USNMENT01125514) (a, c, e) Male (USNMENT01125515) (b, d, f). Figure 59. S. saussurei larva (USNMENT01126236), SEM images. a Lateral view b ventral view c head, frontolateral view d head, dorsal view e mouthparts f anal setae.


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

  • saussurei. Sericomyrmex saussurei Emery, 1894c: 223 (w.) BRAZIL (Mato Grosso).
    • Type-material: holotype worker.
    • Type-locality: Brazil: Mato Grosso, 1886 (P.Germain).
    • Type-depository: MSNG.
    • Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017a: 96 (l.).
    • Status as species: Forel, 1895b: 142; Forel, 1912e: 191 (in key); Wheeler, W.M. 1916c: 11 (in key); Emery, 1924d: 339; Borgmeier, 1927c: 128; Kempf, 1972a: 229; Bolton, 1995b: 382; Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017a: 92 (redescription).
    • Senior synonym of burchelli: Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017a: 92.
    • Senior synonym of impexus: Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017a: 92.
    • Senior synonym of maracas: Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017a: 92.
    • Distribution: Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad, Venezuela.
  • burchelli. Sericomyrmex burchelli Forel, 1905b: 183 (q.m.) BRAZIL (Goiás).
    • Type-material: 1 syntype queen, 1 syntype male.
    • Type-locality: Brazil: Goyaz (= Goiás) (W.J. Burchell).
    • Type-depository: MHNG.
    • Status as species: Forel, 1912e: 191 (in key); Wheeler, W.M. 1916c: 10 (in key); Emery, 1924d: 339; Borgmeier, 1927c: 127; Kempf, 1972a: 229; Bolton, 1995b: 382.
    • Junior synonym of saussurei: Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017a: 92.
  • impexus. Sericomyrmex impexus Wheeler, W.M. 1925a: 54 (w.) GUYANA.
    • Type-material: 7 syntype workers.
    • Type-locality: Guyana (“British Guiana”): Kartabo, vii.-viii.1920 (W.M. Wheeler).
    • Type-depositories: MCZC, NHRS.
    • Status as species: Weber, 1946b: 142; Kempf, 1972a: 229; Bolton, 1995b: 382.
    • Junior synonym of saussurei: Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017a: 92.
  • maracas. Sericomyrmex urichi subsp. maracas Weber, 1937: 395, fig. 7 (w.q.m.) TRINIDAD.
    • Type-material: syntype workers, syntype queens, syntype males (numbers not stated, “one colony”).
    • Type-locality: Trinidad: Northern Range, Maracas Valley, 1.x.1935 (N.A. Weber).
    • Type-depository: MCZC.
    • Subspecies of urichi: Weber, 1945: 44; Kempf, 1972a: 230; Bolton, 1995b: 382.
    • Junior synonym of saussurei: Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017a: 92.

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

Ješovnik & Schultz (2017):



(holotype): HWe 0.88–1.23 (0.98) HW 0.88–1.23 (NA) HW1 0.82–1.32 (1) HW2 0.92–1.56 (1.13) HW3 0.55–0.84 (0.7) IFW1 0.59–0.88 (0.67) IFW2 0.19–0.36 (0.24) HL1 0.84–1.15 (0.96) HL2 0.76–1.08 (0.87) SL 0.62–0.86 (0.73) EL 0.12–0.24 (0.14) Om 7–11 (NA) WL 1.1–1.64 (1.35) PL 0.21–0.38 (0.25) PPL 0.15–0.3 (0.2) GL 0.70– 1.13 (1.13) HFL 0.75–1.38 (1.13) PW 0.61–0.85 (0.76) CI 94–112 (102) FLI 63–74 (69) SI 65–81 (74) OI 12–23 (15) CEI 4–14 (9) [N=68]

Pilosity. Pubescence dense, often lighter than integument, appressed to decumbent. Hairs often curved, darker in color at base, yellow to gray, appressed to suberect, mostly decumbent.

Head. In full-face view slightly broader than long (CI=104 ± 3), posterior corner rounded to angular, posterior cephalic emargination distinct (CEI=9 ± 2), gradually to abruptly impressed. Vertexal impression and frontal tumuli distinct. Mandible with 7–8 teeth, dorsally glossy and striate, sometimes striation reduced or absent. Eye medium-sized (OI =15 ± 1), conspicuously convex, protruding slightly from side of head in full-face view, 7–9 ommatidia across largest diameter, always covered with thick, white layer, which makes discerning individual ommatidia difficult. Frontal lobe relatively wide (FLI=69 ± 2), triangular, slightly laterally expanded, with posterior margin shorter than medial. Frontal carina complete, reaching posterior cephalic corner. Antennal scape relatively short (SI=71 ± 2), not reaching posterior cephalic corner.

Mesosoma. Mesosomal tubercles from low and obtuse to moderately pronounced. Propodeal carinae low, reduced, sometimes with posterodorsal denticle.

Metasoma. Petiole and postpetiole with two low, short, serrate, longitudinal carinae dorsally, in petiole sometimes reduced to low denticles, best seen in dorsolateral view. Postpetiole usually with another pair of low carinae laterally. First gastral tergite with lateral carinae well developed, dorsal carinae weak to well developed.


HWe 1.3–1.38 HW 1.27–1.4 HW1 1.4–1.46 HW2 1.49–1.56 HW3 0.9–0.93 IFW1 0.95–1 IFW2 0.35– 0.4 HL1 1.27–1.33 HL2 1.18–1.25 SL 0.9–0.96 EL 0.23–0.29 Om 20–24 EW 0.08– 0.1 WL 2–2.16 PL 0.43–0.56 PPL 0.25–0.3 GL 1.83–1.95 HFL 1.22–1.6 PW 1.15–1.2 FWg 7.04–7.37 HWg 4.73–4.73 CI 98–106 FLI 70–75 SI 65–72 OI 17–21 [N=6].

Head. Mandible with 8–9 teeth, dorsally glossy and smooth, finely transversely striate only along masticatory margin. Preocular carina fading posterior to eyes. Eye large (OI=19 ± 2), convex, partially covered with white layer, layer thinner than in workers, 20–24 ommatidia across largest diameter. Frontal lobe as in worker, antennal scape not reaching posterior cephalic corner.

Mesosoma. Scutum in dorsal view notauli faint, median mesoscutal line visible only anteriorly. Parapsidal lines thin, slightly curved. Groove separating axillae in dorsal view weakly transversely costate. Scutellum in dorsal view narrowing posteriorly, posterior margin medially with wide, shallow V-shaped notch. Propodeal carinae low, posteriorly diverging, with posterodorsal denticles.

Metasoma. First gastral tergite with lateral carinae strongly developed, dorsal carinae weak, anteromedian groove visible.


HWe 0.74–0.9 HW 0.62–0.7 IFW1 0.3–0.32 IFW2 0.16–0.19 HL1 0.66–0.68 SL 0.65–0.74 EL 0.25– 0.3 Om 23–26 EW 0.13–0.14 WL 1.6–1.72 PL 0.28–0.38 PPL 0.18–0.22 GL 1.18– 1.4 HFL 1.52–1.78 PW 0.74–0.88 IOD 0.56–0.61 FWg 4.73–5.23 HWg 3.15–3.4 CI 112–133 FLI 34–41 SI 79–91 OI 32–36 [N=6]

Head longer than broad (CI=125 ± 7), eye large (OI=34 ± 1) and convex, 23–26 ommatidia across the largest diameter. Preocular carina long, extending posteriorly almost to lateral ocellus, slightly curved medially before fading. Notauli and mesoscutal line well developed, integument surrounding parapsidal lines sometimes darker colored, groove between axillae sometimes with one short costa. Propodeum smooth, without protuberances except small spiracular tubercle. Petiole with lateral and dorsal serrate carinae, postpetiole with reduced lateral denticles.


Around eight setae on each side of lateral and dorsal body surfaces (i.e., ~16 total). Supra-antennal setae absent. Four genal setae on each side. Mandibular apical tooth divided. Labial denticles present anterior to sericteries. First thoracic segment without multidentate spinules. Numbers of ventral setae: two on T1, two on T2, three on T3, and around 10 on abdomen (not including anal setae). Single pair of setae anterior to anal opening.

Type Material

Holotype worker: Brazil, Mato Grosso, [-13, -56], ANTC25804, 1886, P. Germain (Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Genoa: 1w, USNM00445513).


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Fernández, F. and S. Sendoya. 2004. Lista de las hormigas neotropicales. Biota Colombiana Volume 5, Number 1.
  • Franco W., N. Ladino, J. H. C. Delabie, A. Dejean, J. Orivel, M. Fichaux, S. Groc, M. Leponce, and R. M. Feitosa. 2019. First checklist of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of French Guiana. Zootaxa 4674(5): 509-543.
  • Jesovnik A., J. Chaul, and T. Schultz. 2018. Natural history and nest architecture of the fungus-farming ant genus Sericomyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 26: 65-80.
  • Jesovnik A., and T. R. Schultz. 2017. Revision of the fungus-farming ant genus Sericomyrmex Mayr (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Myrmicinae). ZooKeys 670:1-109.
  • Kempf, W.W. 1972. Catalago abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical (Hym. Formicidae) Studia Entomologica 15(1-4).
  • Mirmecofauna de la reserva ecologica de San Felipe Bacalar
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  • Sosa-Calvo J. 2007. Ants of the leaf litter of two plateaus in Eastern Suriname. In Alonso, L.E. and J.H. Mol (eds.). 2007. A rapid biological assessment of the Lely and Nassau plateaus, Suriname (with additional information on the Brownsberg Plateau). RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment 43. Conservation International, Arlington, VA, USA.
  • Weber N. A. 1937. The biology of the fungus-growing ants. Part l. New forms. Rev. Entomol. (Rio J.) 7: 378-409.
  • Weber N. A. 1945. The biology of the fungus-growing ants. Part VIII. The Trinidad, B. W. I., species. Revista de Entomologia (Rio de Janeiro) 16: 1-88.
  • Weber N. A. 1946. The biology of the fungus-growing ants. Part IX. The British Guiana species. Revista de Entomologia (Rio de Janeiro) 17: 114-172.
  • Wheeler W. M. 1925. Neotropical ants in the collections of the Royal Museum of Stockholm. Arkiv för Zoologi 17A(8): 1-55.