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Species: Azteca coeruleipennis   Emery, 1893 

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Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2022)

Azteca coeruleipennis Emery, 1893l: 130, pl. 1, figs. 1-11 (w.q.m.) COSTA RICA. Neotropic. Primary type information: Primary type material: lectotype queen (by designation of Longino, 1991a PDF: 1583). Primary type locality: lectotype Costa Rica: (no further data) (A. Alfaro). Primary type depository: MSNG. Secondary type information: Secondary type material: 6 paralectotype workers, 2 paralectotype queens, 2 paralectotype males. Secondary type locality: same as for lectotype. Secondary type depository: MSNG. Type notes: Longino, 2007 PDF: 25, adds that the lectotype queen label says, “Alajuela, Cecropia, iii. 1890”. AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

Lectotype designation: Longino, 1991a PDF: 1583.
Status as species: Emery, 1896b PDF: 1; Forel, 1899b PDF: 110; Forel, 1912i PDF: 50; Emery, 1913a PDF: 32; Stitz, 1937b PDF: 135; Wheeler, 1942 PDF: 225; Kempf, 1972b PDF: 30; Brandão, 1991 PDF: 329; Longino, 1991a PDF: 1583 (redescription); Shattuck, 1994 PDF: 15; Bolton, 1995b: 78; Longino, 2007 PDF: 25 (redescription); Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012 PDF: 253.
// Distribution


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Americas: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):

Distribution Notes:

Mexico to Costa Rica. Costa Rica: northwestern lowlands.


Natural History:

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.

Literature Cited

Taxonomic Treatment (provided by Plazi)

Scientific Name Status Publication Pages ModsID GoogleMaps
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

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 8 times found in cloud forest, 8 times found in Roadside vegetation, 1 times found in 2nd growth veg., 2 times found in wet forest, 4 times found in road edge nr cloud forest, 3 times found in Moist forest patch surrounded by dry forest (Bosque Humedo), 1 times found in mature wet forest, 2 times found in riparian dry forest, 2 times found in 2nd growth vegetation, 1 times found in mesophyl forest, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 16 times ex Cecropia sapling, 2 times ex Cecropia peltata, 6 times Malaise trap, 5 times ex Cecropia, 3 times in Cecropia sapling, 3 times in Cecropia, 1 times Colony in Cecropia peltata tree, 2 times at bait, 2 times in Cecropia peltata sapling, 2 times in Cecropia peltata, 2 times ex sifted leaf litter, ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 20 times search, 3 times Malaise, 3 times Malaise trap, 2 times Baiting, 2 times Flight Intercept Trap, 2 times MiniWinkler, 1 times Beating, 1 times direct collection.

Elevations: collected from 30 - 1850 meters, 944 meters average

Collect Date Range: collected between 1890-03-01 00:00:00.0 and 2019-06-14 00:00:00.0

Type specimens: Lectotype of Azteca coeruleipennis: casent0905076; paratype of Azteca coeruleipennis: castype00609

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