What are some of the distinguishing features of acrobat ants? (Lucas, Cupertino, USA)


Hello,

I'm Lucas and I am 8 years old. I am identifying ants. I have one with 2 petioles, a step depression on the thorax, and a medium-sized spine. It's about 4 or 5mm and a bit hairy. It has short antennae and it's orange-ish brown. In my identification key, it asks if the spine is long or short. If it's long, I think it's an acrobat ant. If it's short, I think it's a seed disperser ant. But the spine on this ant isn't big or small, it's medium, so I don't know what it is.

Do you know?

I found it in Cupertino, and it was dead and being carried in the mouth of a bicolored wood ant when I found it.

Could you please help me on this?

Thank you.
--Lucas.


Hello Lucas,

Wow! We're very impressed that you're so interested in ants, and you've done such a great job identifying this one so far!

One of the ways I can always recognize an acrobat ant right away is how the second petiole (post-petiole) attaches to the gaster, which is the back part of the ant. Does it attach on the top, like in this picture, or just on the front, like it does on most ants, including seed-dispersers. Also, the petiole (1st petiole) on acrobat ants is flat on the top, whereas the petiole of seed-disperser ants, (and many other ants with a petiole and a post-petiole) has a distinct bump on the top, as show in this great picture by Eli Sarnat.

Also, when they're alive, acrobat ants tend to hold their gasters vertically, as shown in this picture by Alex Wild. This is an alarm posture, but, chances are, if a big scary human like you is near by, they will be alarmed! This distinctive posture is also why they are called "acrobat ants:" sometimes they hold their gasters so high, it seems like they are doing a hand-stand!

You should check out some pictures of Crematogaster (acrobat ants) and Aphaenogaster (seed-disperser ants) on the Ants of California Antweb page, too. It always helps me to see pictures of the different species in a genus I'm trying to identify, so I have an idea of how much variation there is.

Good luck, and keep up the great work!
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

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