Zasphinctus obamai

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Zasphinctus obamai
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Dorylinae
Genus: Zasphinctus
Species: Z. obamai
Binomial name
Zasphinctus obamai
Hita Garcia, 2017

Z obamai casent0178218 p 1 high.jpg

Z obamai casent0178218 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels

Zasphinctus obamai is only known from the type locality, the Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya, which is a tropical equatorial rainforest. Despite a thorough ant inventory (Hita Garcia et al. 2009), Z. obamai was only sampled four times making it one of the rarest ant species of the Kakamega Forest. It was only found in the leaf litter layer of primary or near-primary forest habitats. Considering the rarity of this species in the type locality it is possible that it might also be encountered in other rainforest localities westwards of Kakamega, but eluded collections in the past. However, presently, Z. obamai appears to be endemic to this one forest. (Hita Garcia et al. 2017)


Hita Garcia et al. (2017) - Zasphinctus obamai appears to be morphologically closer to Zasphinctus wilsoni than to Zasphinctus sarowiwai, with these two ants being the other two Afrotropical species of the genus. Among other important differences, Z. obamai and Z. wilsoni are significantly smaller, lack a median clypeal tooth, and have a clearly defined vertexal margin compared to Z. sarowiwai . Zasphinctus obamai and Z. wilsoni can be easily separated by the characters provided in Table 3. On the basis of the type series, there is no observable intraspecific variation.

Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Afrotropical Region: Kenya (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb



Economo-header (  X-ray micro-CT scan 3D model of Zasphinctus obamai (worker) prepared by the Economo lab at OIST.

Holotype. See on Sketchfab. See list of 3D images.


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

  • obamai. Zasphinctus obamai Hita Garcia, in Hita Garcia, Fischer, et al. 2017b: 51, figs. 3, 4A,D,G,J,M,P, 5A,D,G,J,M,P, 6A,D,G,J,M,P, 7, 8, 13A, 16, Video1 (w.) KENYA.
    • Type-material: holotype worker, 7 paratype workers.
    • Type-locality: holotype Kenya: Western Prov., Kakamega Forest, Buyangu, 0.35222, 34.8647, 1640 m., vii.-viii.2004, FHG00001, secondary forest, leaf litter (F. Hita Garcia); paratypes: 2 workers with same data, 2 workers Kakamega Forest, Isecheno, 0.34, 34.85, 1550 m., 6.xi.2002 (W. Okeka), 2 workers Kakamega Forest, Kisere Forest Fragment, 0.38505, 34.89378, 1650 m., Transect 11, FHG00036, 16.vii.2007 (F. Hita Garcia), 1 worker Kakamega Forest, Bunyala Forest Fragment, 0.37889, 34.69917, 1448 m., ANTC39476, viii.2008 (G. Fischer).
    • Type-depositories: NMKN (holotype); BMNH, LACM, MCZC, NMKN, ZFMK (paratypes).
    • Distribution: Kenya.

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


Descriptive details are found in table 3 and 4, Hita Garcia et al., 2017.

Type Material

Type material. Holotype, pinned worker, Kenya, Western Province, Kakamega Forest, Buyangu, 0.35222, 34.8647, 1640 m, secondary rainforest, leaf litter, collection code FHG00001, VII.-VIII.2004 (F. Hita Garcia) (National Museum of Kenya: CASENT0764125). Paratypes, seven pinned workers: two with same data as holotype (The Natural History Museum: CASENT0764126; Museum of Comparative Zoology: CASENT0764127); one from Kenya, Western Province, Kakamega Forest, Isecheno, equatorial rainforest, sifted litter and soil under Morus mesozygia, 0.34, 34.85, 1550 m, 6.XI.2002 (W. Okeka) (Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History: CASENT0178218; Zoologisches Forschungsinstitut und Museum Alexander König: CASENT0764648); two from Kenya, Western Province, Kakamega Forest, Kisere Forest Fragment, 0.38505, 34.89378, 1650 m, rainforest, ex leaf litter, Transect 11, collection code FHG00036, 16.VII.2007 (F. Hita Garcia) (NMKE: CASENT0764128; NMKE: CASENT0764129); and one from Kenya, Western Province, Kakamega Forest, Bunyala Forest Fragment, 0.37889, 34.69917, 1448 m, Winkler leaf litter extraction, collection code ANTC39476, VIII.2008 (G. Fischer) (ZFMK: CASENT0764647).

Cybertypes, the cybertype dataset consists of all volumetric raw data in DICOM format, 3D PDFs and 3D rotation videos of scans of head, mesosoma, metasoma, and the full body of the physical holotype (NMKE: CASENT0764125) and/or one paratype (MCZC: CASENT0764127) in addition to montage photos illustrating head in full-face view, profile and dorsal views of the body of both specimens. The data is deposited at Dryad and can be freely accessed as virtual representation of both types (Hita Garcia et al. 2017c, In addition to the cyber type data at Dryad, we also provide a freely accessible 3D surface model of the holotype at Sketchfab (


This species is named in honour of Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America. We want to acknowledge his important efforts undertaken for the conservation of fragile natural habitats around the globe. Also, the type locality of Z. obamai is geographically close to the hometown of Obama’s paternal family in Western Kenya.


  • Hita Garcia F, Fischer G, Liu C, Audisio TL, Economo EP (2017) Next-generation morphological character discovery and evaluation: an X-ray micro-CT enhanced revision of the ant genus Zasphinctus Wheeler (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Dorylinae) in the Afrotropics. ZooKeys 693: 33–93.

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Ross S. R. P. J., F. Hita Garcia, G. Fischer, and M. K. Peters. 2018. Selective logging intensity in an East African rain forest predicts reductions in ant diversity. Biotropica 1-11.