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Mexico to Costa Rica. Costa Rica: northwestern lowlands.
The taxonomy and biology of A. coeruleipennis is reviewed in Longino (1989b, 1991a, b). See also general treatment of the Cecropia-Azteca association in Costa Rica.
Azteca coeruleipennis is an obligate inhabitant of Cecropia trees (Skwarra 1934; Wheeler 1942; Longino 1989). Founding queens are found solely in Cecropia saplings, and large colonies occur in mature Cecropia trees. In Costa Rica, A. coeruleipennis is a common element of the Cecropia-inhabiting ant fauna in dry forest habitats, and exhibits abrupt declines at habitat boundaries (Longino, 1989). It occurs throughout the Guanacaste lowlands south to the central valley and adjacent Pacific coastal areas. Near Monteverde, it is common along the road from the PanAmerican highway and in the San Luis valley, abruptly dropping out at about 900m elevation. In many dry forest areas the only Cecropia species is C. peltata, hence this is the host tree species in which I have most often seen A. coeruleipennis. I have twice encountered colonies in mature C. obtusifolia trees, and I have twice encountered founding queens in C. insignis saplings less than 2m tall.
Pleometrotic founding is rare: I have 22 records of lone foundresses from sapling internodes, and 1 record of 4 foundresses together in an internode.
Mature colonies have a dispersed colony structure. There is no central carton nest. Brood and any alate sexuals are in branch tips. Older parts of the tree are gradually abandoned, and internal passages are not maintained among occupied branches. When a tree is molested bright yellow workers of rather uniform small size issue forth and descend the trunk, where they aggressively attack the intruder (Longino 1991a).
Azteca coeruleipennis may be a tropical dry forest specialist, with adaptations for tolerating prolonged drought. During the dry season, leafy branch tips are perforated by one or two active entrances, often 10 or more internodes back from the terminal sheathing stipule. In contrast, other Azteca species typically maintain five or more active entrances in the terminal 10 internodes (pers. obs.). Occupied branch sections which contain alate queens have active entrances which are only large enough for workers. Larger tunnels are excavated in the internode walls, but these end blindly within a millimeter of surface, as though the final perforation is suspended until wet season and/or the time of flight of new queens. Reduction of the number and size of entrances may be an adaptation for reducing water loss (Longino 1991a).
Prior to this report I had never investigated palpal formula in Azteca. It was surprising to discover that A. coeruleipennis had a palpal formula of 6,4, while all other Cecropia ants have 5,3. A palpal formula of 6,4 is probably plesiomorphic in the genus, which implies that A. coeruleipennis might be a very old Cecropia ant and sister to all the other Cecropia ants. Perhaps this species has survived the arrival of newer Cecropia ants by being a dry-forest specialist, a habitat that is marginal for Cecropia trees.
|Azteca coeruleipennis||Forel, A., 1899, Biologia Centrali-Americana; or, contributions to the knowledge of the fauna and flora of Mexico and Central America. Insecta. Hymenoptera. 3 (Formicidae)., London: Unknown Publisher: 110, (download)||110||8170|
|Azteca||Longino, J. T., 2007, A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group., Zootaxa 1491, pp. 1-63: 8-10, (download)||8-10||21311|
|Azteca coeruleipennis||Longino, J. T., 2007, A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group., Zootaxa 1491, pp. 1-63: 25-26, (download)||25-26||21311|
Found most commonly in these habitats: 8 times found in cloud forest, 4 times found in road edge nr cloud forest, 2 times found in Roadside vegetation, 3 times found in Moist forest patch surrounded by dry forest (Bosque Humedo), 1 times found in mature wet forest, 1 times found in mesophyl forest, 1 times found in tropical moist forest, 1 times found in tropical rainforest, 1 times found in clearing in forest, 1 times found in road edge in coffee farm, ...
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 13 times ex Cecropia sapling, 1 times Colony in Cecropia peltata. 860m on Rio Guacimal. Quantitative Cecropia survey, 5 times ex Cecropia, 4 times Malaise trap, 1 times Queens from various Cecropia saplings. Conoaxima., 2 times Dry forest remnant along river. #2676-#2690 are from branch samples from Cecropi, 1 times Colony in Cecropia peltata tree, 2 times at bait, 2 times Roadside vegetation. Cecropia survey, see field notes for more detailed informat, 2 times Roadside vegetation. Azteca, nesting in Cecropia sapling (Cecropia survey, see f, 2 times in Cecropia sapling, ...
Collected most commonly using these methods: 19 times search, 3 times Malaise, 2 times MiniWinkler, 2 times Baiting, 2 times Flight Intercept Trap, 1 times Malaise trap, 1 times Beating.
Elevations: collected from 30 - 1850 meters, 946 meters average