Tetramorium cavernicola

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Tetramorium cavernicola
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Tetramorium
Species: T. cavernicola
Binomial name
Tetramorium cavernicola
Hita Garcia & Fisher, 2015

Tetramorium cavernicola casent0247028 p 1 high.jpg

Tetramorium cavernicola casent0247028 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels

Currently, T. cavernicola is only known from Ankarana, where it was collected from a cave. The collection locality and the fact that the species is not known from outside the cave imply that T. cavernicola might be a specialised, cave-adapted ant. The generally very slender body and very long antennae and legs also support cave specialisation. Nevertheless, we do not consider the new species an obligate cave inhabitant. Arthropods that have evolved a cave-obligate lifestyle usually have a distinct set of morphological adaptations: reduction or loss of eyes, pigments, and wings; thinning of the cuticle; elongate antennae and legs; and slender body (Christiansen 1962; Culver 1982; Barr 1985). Yet the eyes, pigment, and wings in T. cavernicola are clearly not reduced since its eyes are always well developed, as are the wings in the queen and male castes, and the body colouration is brownish. In addition, we cannot detect any thinning of the cuticle. The slender gestalt and long antennae and legs could argue for cave adaptation, but are actually very typical of most species in the Tetramorium setigerum group. The antennae and legs of Tetramorium dolichosum and Tetramorium perlongum are much longer than in T. cavernicola, even though these species do not live in caves. Tetramorium cavernicola appears to nest in the ground since most of the type series was collected from a ground nest, but no additional natural history data exists for this species. (Hita Garcia and Fisher 2015)


Hita Garcia and Fisher (2015) - A member of the Tetramorium setigerum group. Tetramorium cavernicola differs from all other Malagasy congeners by the following combination of characters: 12-segmented antennae; anterior clypeal margin entire and convex; lateral clypeus not modified into tooth or denticle; antennal scape very long (SI 120–123); mesosoma in profile relatively low and slender (LMI 35–36); and propodeum armed with very short teeth/spines (PSLI 7–11).

Tetramorium cavernicola is a very distinctive element of the Malagasy Tetramorium fauna and cannot be mistaken for any other congener based on the diagnosis provided above. There are some morphological similarities to the two species of the Tetramorium tosii group but the distinction between these is easily found by comparing the shape of the head, the length of the antennal scapes, and the propodeal spines. In T. cavernicola the head is noticeably thinner (CI 77–79) and the antennal scapes are much longer (SI 120–123) while the propodeal spines are reduced to short teeth (PSLI 7–11). By contrast, the species in the T. tosii group have a thicker head (CI 85–91), much shorter scapes (SI 79–104), and much longer propodeal spines (PSLI 30–49).


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -12.92968° to -12.92968°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Malagasy Region: Madagascar (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.




Images from AntWeb

Tetramorium cavernicola casent0373132 h 1 high.jpgTetramorium cavernicola casent0373132 d 1 high.jpgTetramorium cavernicola casent0373132 p 1 high.jpgTetramorium cavernicola casent0373132 l 1 high.jpg
Paratype of Tetramorium cavernicolaWorker. Specimen code casent0373132. Photographer Michele Esposito, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.


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

  • cavernicola. Tetramorium cavernicola Hita Garcia & Fisher, 2015: 147, figs. 6A, 6E, 29B, 30 (w.) MADAGASCAR.

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



(N=15). HL 0.74–0.78 (0.76); HW 0.58–0.61 (0.60); SL 0.71–0.75 (0.72); EL 0.14–0.15 (0.14); PH 0.32––0.35 (0.33); PW 0.45–0.48 (0.46); WL 0.92–0.99 (0.95); PSL 0.06–0.08 (0.07); PTL 0.17–0.19 (0.18); PTH 0.22–0.24 (0.23); PTW 0.21–0.23 (0.22); PPL 0.22–0.24 (0.23); PPH 0.24–0.25 (0.25); PPW 0.26–0.28 (0.27); CI 77–79 (78); SI 120–123 (122); OI 23–26; DMI 47–50 (49); LMI 35–36 (35); PSLI 7–11 (9); PeNI 47–49 (47); LPeI 73–79 (77); DPeI 121–127 (123); PpNI 56–60 (58); LPpI 90–98 (94); DPpI 113–123 (117); PPI 120–127 (124).

Head much longer than wide (CI 77–79); posterior head margin weakly to moderately concave. Anterior clypeal margin entire and convex. Frontal carinae strongly developed, moderately raised, usually becoming weaker after posterior eye level, approaching or ending at posterior head margin; antennal scrobes very weak to absent. Antennal scapes very long, weakly surpassing posterior head margin (SI 120–123). Eyes moderately large (OI 23–26). Mesosomal outline in profile relatively flat, elongate and low (LMI 35–36), weakly marginate from lateral to dorsal mesosoma; promesonotal suture and metanotal groove absent. Propodeum armed with short, triangular teeth (PSLI 7–11), propodeal lobes moderately developed, triangular to elongate-triangular, slightly longer and broader than propodeal teeth. Petiolar node nodiform with moderately rounded antero- and posterodorsal margins, in profile between 1.2 and 1.4 times higher than long (LPeI 73–79), anterior and posterior faces not parallel, node weakly narrowing towards dorsum, anterodorsal and posterodorsal margins situated at about same height and both weakly to moderately angled, petiolar dorsum flat to very weakly convex; node in dorsal view around 1.2 to 1.3 times wider than long (DPeI 121–127), in dorsal view pronotum around 2.0 to 2.1 times wider than petiolar node (PeNI 47–49). Postpetiole in profile approximately globular, around 1.0 to 1.1 times higher than long (LPpI 90–98); in dorsal view around 1.1 and 1.2 times wider than long (DPpI 113–123), pronotum around 1.7 to 1.8 times wider than postpetiole (PpNI 56–60). Postpetiole in profile appearing distinctly more voluminous than petiolar node, postpetiole in dorsal view around 1.2 to 1.3 times wider than petiolar node (PPI 120–127). Mandibles striate; clypeus longitudinally rugose/ rugulose with well-developed median ruga and usually one or two weaker, sometimes irregular, lateral rugae/rugulae on each side; cephalic dorsum between frontal carinae anteriorly towards posterior clypeal margin with three or four distinct but irregularly shaped longitudinal rugae with numerous cross-meshes, halfway between eye level and posterior head margin fluent transition to well-developed rugoreticulum ranging to posterior head margin; scrobal area only weakly sculptured, remainder of lateral head clearly reticulate-rugose. Mesosoma laterally and dorsally conspicuously reticulate-rugose; forecoxae unsculptured, smooth, and shining. Petiole and postpetiole irregularly rugulose, better developed on dorsum than sides. First gastral tergite unsculptured, smooth, and shiny. Ground sculpture on cephalic dorsum between frontal carinae weak, distinctly reticulate-punctate on lateral head, mesosoma, and waist segments, absent from gaster. All dorsal surfaces of body with short to moderately long, thick, and apically blunt pilosity; appressed pubescence on first gastral tergite strongly reduced to absent. Anterior edges of antennal scapes and dorsal (outer) surfaces of hind tibiae with decumbent to suberect hairs. Head and mesosoma reddish brown; waist segments lighter in colour, usually orange brown; mandibles, antennae, and legs yellowish brown.

Type Material

Holotype Specimen Labels

Holotype, pinned worker, MADAGASCAR, Antsiranana, Réserve Spéciale d’Ankarana, Andrafiabe, 12.92968 S, 49.05983 E, 59 m, in cave, ground nest, collection code BLF32473, 26.XI.2013 (B. Fisher et al.) (California Academy of Sciences: CASENT0247028). Paratypes, 15 pinned workers with same data as holotype (CASC: CASENT0247022; CASENT0247023; CASENT0247024; CASENT0247025; CASENT0247026; CASENT0247027; CASENT0247028; CASENT0247357; CASENT0247358; CASENT0248742; CASENT0248745; CASENT0248746; CASENT0373132; Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt: CASENT0247029; Musee d'Histoire Naturelle Genève: CASENT0248743; Naturhistorisches Museum, Basel: CASENT0248744); and three pinned workers with same data as holotype except collection code BLF32472 and collected as ground foragers (The Natural History Museum: CASENT0247021; CASC: CASENT0247020; Museum of Comparative Zoology: CASENT0373133).


The name of the new species is a Latin noun and means “cave dweller” or “cave inhabitant”. It refers to the microhabitat where the type series was collected. The species epithet is a nominative noun in apposition.


  • Hita Garcia, F. & Fisher, B.L. 2015. Taxonomy of the hyper-diverse ant genus Tetramorium Mayr in the Malagasy region (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Myrmicinae) – first record of the T. setigerum species group and additions to the Malagasy species groups with an updated illustrated identification key. ZooKeys. 512:121–153. doi:10.3897/zookeys.512.9860 (doi:10.3897/zookeys.512.9860).