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Species: Prionopelta amabilis   Borgmeier, 1949 

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Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2020)

Prionopelta amabilis Borgmeier, 1949 PDF: 203, figs. 3-5 (w.) COSTA RICA. Neotropic. Primary type information: COSTA RICA: Hamburg Farm, F. Nevermann leg., MCZT-34787 [MCZC] AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

// Distribution


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Americas: Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):

Distribution Notes:

Honduras to southern Brazil.


Two studies have been carried out on the behavior of P. amabilis, based on several captive colonies from La Selva Biologica Station in Costa Rica (Hoelldobler and Wilson 1986, Hoelldobler et al. 1992). The following account is based on those studies:

Colonies are polydomous, occupying many small chambers in dead wood fragments. They may contain over 700 workers, and 1 or 2 reproductive queens (active ovaries, filled spermatheca). Workers all appear capable of producing trophic eggs, which may be the main food of the queen. Workers attack live prey and transport it back to the larvae. When presented with a "cafeteria" of diverse prey types, they strongly prefer campodeid diplurans, but will occasionally take other small arthropods. Workers produce a trail pheromone from specialized glands in the hind basitarsus. They exhibit a characteristic behavior, a rapid up and down vibration, which appears to excite or attract other workers, and they drag their hind legs along the surface, apparently leaving a pheromone trail. These behaviors are used to recruit nestmates when prey is discovered. Workers exhibit a simple temporal caste polyethism, in which young workers attend primarily to brood care, while older workers undertake a broader range of behaviors, including brood care, tending the queen, and foraging. Workers have a "wall-papering" behavior, in which they use cocoon fragments to cover the walls of chambers containing pupae, a behavior thought to aid in keeping the pupal chamber dry. Trophallaxis and adult transport have not been observed, and there appears to be no alarm pheromone (Hoelldobler and Wilson 1986, Hoelldobler et al. 1992).


Longino notes, 8 Aug 2020: Everyone has had a confused notion of species boundaries in this group until the revision of Ladino & Feitosa (2020). Up until 2013 I conflated P. dubia and P. amabilis, and from then until now I misidentified P. dubia as P. amabilis and P. amabilis as P. antillana. Ladino (pers com) confirmed that the colonies studied by Holldobler and Wilson were P. amabilis.


Borgmeier, T. 1949. Formigas novas ou pouco conhecidas de Costa Rica e da Argentina (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Rev. Bras. Biol. 9:201-210.

Brown, W. L., Jr. 1960. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. III. Tribe Amblyoponini (Hymenoptera). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 122:143-230.

Forel, A. 1909. Ameisen aus Guatemala usw., Paraguay und Argentinien (Hym.). Dtsch. Entomol. Z. 1909:239-269.

Hoelldobler, B., Obermayer, M., Wilson, E. O. 1992. Communication in the primitive cryptobiotic ant Prionopelta amabilis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J. Comp. Physiol. A. Sens. Neural Behav. Physiol. 171:9-16.

Hoelldobler, B., Wilson, E. O. 1986. Ecology and behavior of the primitive cryptobiotic ant Prionopelta amabilis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insectes Soc. 33:45-58.

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 8 times found in tropical rainforest, with big trees, probably primary, 2 times found in tropical rainforest, 8 times found in tropical rainforest, with some big trees, probably a mix of primary and secondary forest, 4 times found in wet forest, 6 times found in rainforest, 3 times found in tropical wet forest, 3 times found in cloud forest, 1 times found in moist forest, 1 times found in Puesto1,293G. 10m., 1 times found in rainforest stream edge, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 25 times ex sifted leaf litter, 3 times ex rotten log, 6 times sifted litter (leaf mold, rotten wood), 2 times under bark of fallen tree, 3 times LeafLitter, 1 times under moss mat at base of tree, 1 times in treefern base, 1 times in soil, 2 times ex sifted litter (leaf mold, rotten wood), 1 times 25yr old second growth just above Casa Plastico. Ex sifted leaf litter on ground, 1 times Wet forest. Ex sifted leaf litter., ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 12 times miniWinkler, 7 times Winkler, 8 times maxiWinkler, 4 times Berlese, 3 times search, 2 times hand collecting, 2 times 6L sifted litter, extracted in Winkler sack over ~18 hours, 2 times Pitfall72h, 1 times 6 L sifted litter, extracted in Winkler sack over 24 hours, 1 times 6 L sifted litter, extracted in Winkler sack overnight, 1 times 6L sifted litter, extracted in Winkler sack over 36 hours, ...

Elevations: collected from 50 - 1315 meters, 435 meters average

Collect Date Range: collected between 1968-03-18 and 2018-08-29

Type specimens:

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