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Genus: Cephalotes   Latreille, 1802 


Current Valid Name:

Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2023)

Extant: 118 valid species

Fossil: 18 valid species

Cephalotes Latreille, 1802b: 357. Type-species: Formica atrata, by monotypy. AntCat AntWiki

Taxonomic history

[Type-species not Formica cephalotes Linnaeus, 1758, unjustified subsequent designation by Wheeler, 1911g PDF: 160; corrected by Wheeler, 1913a PDF: 78; Emery, 1914b PDF: 38; Emery, 1924f PDF: 303.]
Cephalotes in Formicariae: Latreille, 1802b: 357.
Cephalotes as junior synonym of Atta: Forel, 1893h PDF: 587 (error); Forel, 1899b PDF: 30 (error).
Cephalotes as genus: all authors except Fabricius, 1804 PDF: 419; Latreille, 1816: 496; Latreille, 1817c: 526.
[Note: Fabricius, 1804 PDF: 419; Latreille, 1816: 496; Latreille, 1817c: 526, give Cryptocerus as senior synonym, but Cephalotes has priority. Latreille, 1816: 496, himself says of Cephalotes, “Je l’avois d’abord consacré (Hist. gén. des insectes., tom. 3) à un genre démembré de celui de fourmi, et qu’on appelle maintenant cryptocère.”]
Genus Cephalotes references
Smith, 1853 PDF: 215 (Cryptocerus diagnosis); Smith, 1858a PDF: 187 (Cryptocerus diagnosis); Mayr, 1865 PDF: 25 (Cryptocerus diagnosis); Emery, 1914b PDF: 38 (diagnosis); Santschi, 1920f PDF: 149 (Cephalotes species key); Wheeler, 1922: 665 (Cryptocerus subgenera, key); Emery, 1924f PDF: 303, 304, 305, 306, 306, 308, 311 (Cephalotes, Zacryptocerus, Cryptocerus, subgenera key, Cryptocerus (Paracryptocerus), Cryptocerus (Cryptocerus), Cryptocerus (Cyathocephalus) diagnoses); Smith, 1947a PDF: 29 (U.S.A. Cryptocerus, Cryptocerus (Cyathomyrmex) species); Creighton, 1950a PDF: 296 (Cryptocerus Nearctic species key); Kempf, 1951 PDF: 107 (diagnoses, all species revisions), 127 (Eucryptocerus species key), 134 (Zacryptocerus species key), 143 (Hypocryptocerus species key), 153 (Paracryptocerus species key); Kempf, 1952 PDF: 5 (Cephalotes pinelii complex revision, key); Kempf, 1958a: 10 (Argentina Paracryptocerus species key); Kempf, 1958a: 64 (Paracryptocerus subgenera, key); Kempf, 1958a: 66 (Paracryptocerus (Harnedia) all species revision, key); Kempf, 1958a: 145 (Paracryptocerus (Cyathomyrmex) all species revision, key); Kempf, 1960f PDF: 443 (addition to Kempf, 1958a key); Snelling, 1968a PDF: 9 (Cephalotes wheeleri complex key); Kempf, 1974a PDF: 73 (Cephalotes pinelii group key); Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990: 13 (synoptic classification); Bolton, 1994: 105 (synoptic classification); Bolton, 1995a PDF: 1048 (census); De Andrade & Baroni Urbani, 1999 PDF: 736 (Cephalotes diagnosis, all species revision, key); Price et al., 2014 PDF: 244 (phylogeny); Baccaro et al., 2015 10.5281/zenodo.32912 PDF: 218 (genus in Brazil); Cantone, 2017 PDF: 194 (brief male diagnosis); Fernández & Serna, 2019 PDF: 845 (Colombia fauna); Sandoval-Gómez & Sánchez-Restrepo, 2019 PDF: 901 (Colombia species key); Oliveira et al., 2021 10.1590/1806-9665-RBENT-2021-0028 PDF: 1 (Brazilian species revision), 3 (genus diagnosis), 5 (taxonomic synopsis, key to Brazilian species (workers)), 7 (key to Brazilian species (soldiers)), 8 (Brazilian Cephalotes angustus species group diagnosis, species list, key to workers), 9 (Brazilian Cephalotes angustus species group key (soldiers)), 18 (Brazilian Cephalotes atratus species group diagnosis), 19 (Brazilian Cephalotes atratus species group species list, key to workers and soldiers), 21 (Brazilian Cephalotes basalis species group diagnosis, species list, key to workers), 22 (Brazilian Cephalotes basalis species group key (soldiers)), 23 (Brazilian Cephalotes clypeatus species group diagnosis, species list, key to workers and soldiers), 24 (Brazilian Cephalotes coffeae species group diagnosis), 24 (Brazilian Cephalotes depressus species group diagnosis, species list, key to workers and soldiers), 27 (Brazilian Cephalotes fiebrigi species group diagnosis, species list, key to workers), 28 (Brazilian Cephalotes fiebrigi species group key (soldiers)), 31 (Brazilian Cephalotes grandinosus species group diagnosis, species list, key to workers), 32 (Brazilian Cephalotes grandinosus species group key (soldiers)), 33 (Brazilian Cephalotes manni species group diagnosis, species list), 33 (Brazilian Cephalotes pallens species group diagnosis), 34 (Brazilian Cephalotes pallens species group species list, key to workers), 35 (Brazilian Cephalotes pallens species group key (soldiers)), 36 (Brazilian Cephalotes pinelii species group diagnosis, species list, key to workers), 37 (Brazilian Cephalotes pinelii species group key (soldiers)), 42 (Brazilian Cephalotes pusillus species group diagnosis, species list, key to workers), 43 (Brazilian Cephalotes pusillus species group key (soldiers)), 45 (Brazilian Cephalotes solidus species group diagnosis, species list), 45 (Brazilian Cephalotes umbraculatus group species list); Price et al., 2022 10.1093/isd/ixab023 PDF: 1 (phylogeny, divergence dating, biogeography).

Taxon Page Images:

Cephalotes varians. A soldier ant blocks the nest entrance with her head- visible as a broad disk- while a second soldier walks by. Competition for limited nesting sites is fierce, and soldiers prevent other ant species from usurping their territory. Florida Keys, USA.
Image © Alex Wild.


Cephalotes is a very distinctive genus of over 130 species immediately identifiable by the bimorphic or polymorphic worker caste, heavily armored cuticle, flattened head, deeply excavated antennal scrobes capable of receiving the entire antennae, large eyes situated at the apex of the antennal scrobe, and apedunculate petiole. The genus is restricted to the New World tropics and subtropics, with three species extending their range into the southern United States: C. varians (Florida), C. texanus (Texas), C. rowheri (southern Arizona). Cephalotes was revised by De Andrade & Baroni Urbani (1999), who proposed the ecological success of the genus is owed to the following traits: 1) frequent polyandry, 2) a diet based largely on a very abundant resource like pollen, 3) nesting in pre-existing plant cavities, 4) appearance (among most species) of a separate caste of soldiers devoted essentially to the defense of the nest, 5) a high frequency of spontaneous mutation, and 6) a morphology particularly suitable to passive defense.

// Distribution


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Americas: Argentina, Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, United States Virgin Islands, Uruguay, Venezuela
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):
    Nearctic, Neotropical
  Native biogeographic regions (according to species list records):
    Nearctic, Neotropical


De Andrade, M.L. & Baroni Urbani, C. (1999) Diversity and adaptation in the ant genus Cephalotes, past and present. Stuttg. Beitr. Naturkd. Ser. B (Geol. Palaontol.), 271, 1-889.

Taxonomic Treatment (provided by Plazi)

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