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Species: Azteca constructor   Emery, 1896 

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Current Valid Name:

Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2023)

Azteca constructor Emery, 1896b PDF: 2, figs. 2a-e, 3 (w.q.m.) COSTA RICA. Neotropic. Primary type information: Primary type material: syntype workers, syntype queens, syntype males (numbers not stated). Primary type locality: Costa Rica: “Atlantic and Pacific slopes” (no further data) (A. Alfaro). Primary type depositories: MHNG, MSNG. Type notes: 1) Longino, 1991a PDF: 1585, says syntype labels have “Jimenez, v.1895”. 2) Shattuck, 1994 PDF: 15, cites 5 worker, 1 queen syntypes in MHNG. AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

Status as species: Forel, 1899b PDF: 110; Forel, 1912i PDF: 50; Emery, 1913a PDF: 32; Wheeler, 1922e PDF: 14; Wheeler, 1942 PDF: 225; Kempf, 1972b PDF: 31; Brandão, 1991 PDF: 329; Longino, 1991a PDF: 1585 (redescription); Shattuck, 1994 PDF: 15; Bolton, 1995b: 78; Longino, 2007 PDF: 26 (redescription); Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012 PDF: 253; Guerrero, 2019 PDF: 705.
// Distribution


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Americas: Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):

Distribution Notes:

Guatemala south through Central America to north coastal Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana. Costa Rica: throughout.


Natural History:

The taxonomy and biology of A. constructor are reviewed in Longino (1989b, 1991a, b). See also general treatment of the Cecropia-Azteca association in Costa Rica.

Azteca constructor is an obligate Cecropia ant. It occurs throughout Costa Rica, in a wide variety of habitats and in a variety of Cecropia species. I have found queens in Cecropia saplings from sea level to 1500m. Queens occur abundantly in saplings of C. peltata, C. obtusifolia, and C. insignis, and I have occasionally found queens in saplings of C. angustifolia, a non-myrmecophytic cloud forest species which does not harbor Azteca colonies when mature. In the lowlands, A. constructor colonies are common in mature trees of C. peltata on the Pacific coast and C. obtusifolia on the Atlantic coast. In the Atlantic lowlands, mature C. insignis trees are dominated by A. ovaticeps (D. and D. Clark, pers. com., and pers. obs.). This contrasts with the uplands, where in relatively undisturbed forest C. insignis is the only myrmecophytic Cecropia species. In these upland sites, saplings are filled with queens of A. constructor and A. xanthochroa, which implies that nearby mature trees of C. insignis must harbor reproductive colonies of A. constructor. Thus, hostplant use appears to vary with region and elevation.

Pleometrosis at colony founding is very common, particularly at upland sites, and I have found up to 10 queens in a single internode. Mixed-species associations are common, with queens of A. constructor and A. xanthochroa inhabiting the same internode. Colonies at a stage where there are hundreds of workers and the queen has become physogastric are generally monogynous, but I have twice observed colonies at this stage with two physogastric queens. In both cases, the queens have been close together in the central carton nest of the colony. Multiple physogastric queens in young colonies are apparently common in Monteverde, Costa Rica (D. Perlman, pers. com.). I have dissected two mature colonies of A. constructor, and both were monogynous.

Mature colonies occupy a single carton nest in the bole of the tree. The nest is spindle-shaped and causes a deformation of the trunk. All larvae and alate sexuals are concentrated in this single nest. Branchtips, which all communicate internally with the carton nest, contain only workers and Homoptera. Workers of this species are extremely aggressive, and respond to any disturbance by pouring out of large fissures near the carton nest and blackening the trunk surface.

Alate queens of this species and another common Cecropia ant, A. xanthochroa, are relatively common in Malaise trap samples from the Atlantic slope rainforests of Costa Rica. No other Azteca species are common in Malaise traps, even though they are common in the environment. Even the other common Cecropia ants, A. alfari and A. ovaticeps, are not common in Malaise samples. This implies that there is something distinctive about the behavior of queens of these two species that makes them more susceptible to capture.

Literature Cited

Taxonomic Treatment (provided by Plazi)

Scientific Name Status Publication Pages ModsID GoogleMaps
Azteca constructor   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 constructor   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: 26-30, (download) 26-30 21311

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 12 times found in rainforest, 13 times found in wet forest, 10 times found in La Selva, 10 times found in roadside vegetation, 1 times found in behind comedor, 6 times found in montane wet forest, 3 times found in dry forest, 1 times found in 2nd growth moist forest, 2 times found in Trampa #9, 1 times found in tropical moist forest, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 12 times Malaise trap, 10 times ex Cecropia, 7 times ex Cecropia obtusifolia, 9 times in Cecropia sapling, 1 times P007, 7 times ex Cecropia sapling, 5 times in Cecropia obtusifolia sapling, 1 times second growth veg., 3 times in Cecropia, 3 times in Cecropia peltata, 2 times ex Cecropia obstusifolia, ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 29 times Malaise, 18 times search, 2 times Foggin, 1 times Malaise trap, 1 times flight intercept trap, 1 times Fogging, 1 times Pitfall72h.

Elevations: collected from 5 - 1700 meters, 445 meters average

Collect Date Range: collected between 1979-12-21 00:00:00.0 and 2020-01-20 00:00:00.0

Type specimens: syntype of Azteca constructor: casent0905098; syntype of Azteca emmae: casent0909623, casent0909624

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