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Temporal range: 20.43–0 Ma Early Miocene – Recent
Paraponera clavata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Paraponerinae
Genus: Paraponera
Smith, F., 1858
Type species
Formica clavata, now Paraponera clavata
1 species
1 fossil species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)

Paraponera clavata casent0006789 profile 1.jpg

Paraponera clavata

Paraponera clavata casent0006789 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

This monotypic genus, exclusively neotropical, is well known and easily recognized from its giant size (> 2 cm long).


Its large size, conspicuous antennal scrobes, and the uniquely shaped petiole make this monotypic genus immediately recognizable.

AntWeb icon 02.png See images of species within this genus



Throughout the wet neotropics.

Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps


Fossils are known from: Dominican amber, Dominican Republic (Burdigalian, Early Miocene).


For details see Paraponera clavata, the only known species within this genus.

Foragers of P. clavata in the tree of which the roots harbour the nest. From La Selva, Costa Rica. Photo by Christian Peeters.

Association with Other Organisms

All Associate Records for Genus

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Taxon Relationship Associate Type Associate Taxon Associate Relationship Locality Source Notes
Paraponera clavata host fungus Cordyceps doiana pathogen Colombia Kobayasi, 1981; Araujo et al., 2018; Sanjuan et al., 2015; Shrestha et al., 2017
Paraponera clavata host fungus Ophiocordyceps australis pathogen Araujo et al., 2018; Sanjuan et al., 2015; Shrestha et al., 2017
Paraponera clavata host fungus Ophiocordyceps ponerinarum pathogen Araujo et al., 2018; Sanjuan et al., 2015; Shrestha et al., 2017
Paraponera clavata host nematode Mermithidae (unspecified "Mermix") parasite Neotropics Wheeler, 1928; Laciny, 2021
Paraponera clavata host phorid fly Apocephalus paraponerae parasite attacked
Paraponera clavata host phorid fly Apocephalus paraponerae parasite Brown et al., 2015 attracted to injured
Paraponera clavata host phorid fly Apocephalus tanyurus parasite attacked
Paraponera clavata host phorid fly Apocephalus tanyurus parasite Brown et al., 2015 injured
Paraponera clavata host phorid fly Beckerina sp parasite Brown et al., 2015 injured
Paraponera clavata host phorid fly Megaselia aurea parasite Brown et al., 2015 injured
Paraponera clavata host phorid fly Megaselia sp parasite Brown et al., 2015 injured

Flight Period

All Flight Records for Genus

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Taxon Month Source Notes
Paraponera clavata Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Kannowski, 1991

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: Up to >2000 (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Compound colony type: not parasitic (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Nest site: hypogaeic; arboreal (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Diet class: omnivore (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging stratum: arboreal (Greer et al., 2021)
  • Foraging behaviour: cooperative (Greer et al., 2021)



Worker Morphology

 • Eyes: >100 ommatidia • Pronotal Spines: dentiform • Mesonotal Spines: absent • Propodeal Spines: absent • Petiolar Spines: absent • Caste: none or weak • Sting: present • Metaplural Gland: present • Cocoon: present


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

  • PARAPONERA [Paraponerinae]
    • Paraponera Smith, F. 1858b: 100. Type-species: Formica clavata, by monotypy.

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

Head sub quadrate, with the angles rounded, slightly narrowed posteriorly ; the eyes circular and very prominent. situated a littlebefore the middle, at the sides of the head; the antennre inserted forward on the face in deep cavities close to the base of the clypens; mandibles large, triangular, dentate on their inner edge; the labial palpi 3-jointed, the maxillary palpi 5-jointed; the node of the abdomen incrassate; the abdomen with a deep strangulation between the first and second segments.

Paraponera clavata. Image by Alex Wild.

This insect, which is now separated from the genus Ponera, will not range in any of the subdivisions here described; in the prominence of the eyes it agrees with the genus Ectatomma, but the labial and maxillary palpi are composed of a different number of joints.

Brown (1958) - Smith correctly noted the palpal segmentation; all castes of both sexes have a 5,3 formula. The female is winged, and both it and the worker have the hypopygium bordered on each side by an upwardly-directed comb of slender spinules. The male subgenital plate is in the form of a slender, up curved biramous fork resembling that seen in the males of cerapachyines. The hind wings of both sexes have a well-developed anal lobe. Weber (1946) has discussed certain aspects of the morphology and habits, and has called attention to the resemblances Paraponera bears to Ectatomma. Larval morphology is covered by G.C. and J. Wheeler (1952a :117, pI. 2, figs. 1-9) .


  • 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, Paraponera in Pachycondylinae, Ectatommini)
  • Bolton, B. 1994. Identification guide to the ant genera of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 222 pp. (page 164, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 178, Paraponera in Paraponerinae, Paraponerini)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1954e. Remarks on the internal phylogeny and subfamily classification of the family Formicidae. Insectes Soc. 1: 21-31 (page 25, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini (in text))
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1958g. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. II. Tribe Ectatommini (Hymenoptera). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 118: 173-362 (page 205, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 18, Paraponera in Ponerinae)
  • Dlussky, G. M.; Fedoseeva, E. B. 1988. Origin and early stages of evolution in ants. Pp. 70-144 in: Ponomarenko, A. G. (ed.) Cretaceous biocenotic crisis and insect evolution. Moskva: Nauka, 232 pp. (page 79, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)
  • Emery, C. 1895l. Die Gattung Dorylus Fab. und die systematische Eintheilung der Formiciden. Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 685-778 (page 767, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)
  • Forel, A. 1895b. A fauna das formigas do Brazil. Bol. Mus. Para. Hist. Nat. Ethnogr. 1: 89-139 (page 111, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Forel, A. 1899b. Formicidae. [part]. Biol. Cent.-Am. Hym. 3: 1-24 (page 10, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Hölldobler, B.; Wilson, E. O. 1990. The ants. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, xii + 732 pp. (page 10, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)
  • Jaffe, K. 1993. El mundo de las hormigas. Baruta, Venezuela: Equinoccio (Ediciones de la Universidad Simón Bolívar), 188 pp. (page 7, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Paraponerini)
  • Kempf, W. W. 1972b. Catálogo abreviado das formigas da regia~o Neotropical. Stud. Entomol. 15: 3-344 (page 181, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)
  • Kusnezov, N. 1964 [1963]. Zoogeografía de las hormigas en Sudamérica. Acta Zool. Lilloana 19: 25-186 (page 50, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)
  • Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 714, Paraponera 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 14, Paraponera in Ponerinae [Poneridae])
  • Smith, F. 1858a. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Formicidae. London: British Museum, 216 pp. (page 100, Paraponera in Poneridae)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1985b. A simplified conspectus of the Formicidae. Trans. Am. Entomol. Soc. 111: 255-264 (page 256, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 135, Paraponera in Ponerinae, Ectatommini)