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Species: Acropyga exsanguis   (Wheeler, 1909) 

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Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2016)

Rhizomyrma exsanguis Wheeler, 1909b PDF: 238 (w.) MEXICO. AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

Combination in Acropyga (Rhizomyrma): Mann, 1922 PDF: 53.


Neotropical Region: Argentina, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname

Distribution Notes:

This species has a wide distribution, ranging from central Mexico to northern Argentina. Costa Rica: throughout country to 1400m.


This species inhabits a variety of habitats including lowland rainforest, seasonal dry forest, and montane wet forest. It is most often encountered by looking under stones in moist areas or by sifting leaf litter from the forest floor (Winkler samples).

Twice during the wet season at La Selva Biological Station, 4-Nov-1991 and 22-Oct-1991, Longino observed massive mating swarms of males. While walking from the bridge to the dining hall at dusk, swirling clouds of males were forming above every small shrub in the grassy clearing around the station buildings. Even in the dining hall itself, small groups of males were forming aggregations above the white plates set out on the tables.

Even though Acropyga appear to be relatively rare ants when relying on common collecting methods such as manual search or litter sifting, the great clouds of flying males belie their true abundance in the habitat. Acropyga are entirely subterranean ants that live in the soil, a notoriously difficult microhabitat to sample.


In Central America, several species of Acropyga have mandibles that are narrow and strap-shaped, with only 3 teeth on the relatively short masticatory margin. Queens may occasionally have 4 teeth, but the mandible is still narrow and strap-shaped. LaPolla (2004) distinguished these species mainly on male genitalia. Workers are not easily distinguished.

At La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, A. exsanguis and A. keira co-occur. The workers of A. exsanguis are scruffier, with somewhat more abundant dorsal pilosity. The males are more distinct, with males of A. keira having larger apices of the penis valves. A few worker collections from higher elevations above La Selva and in Monteverde are larger than the typical La Selva A. exsanguis and are tentatively identified as A. goeldii. LaPolla also described A. palaga, with workers indistinguishable from A. goeldii, based on a collection from Estrella Valley in the Atlantic lowlands and a collection from Alajuela.

North of Costa Rica, a few collections have associated males, and these more or less match La Selva A. exsanguis. Longino uses A. exsanguis as the default identification for A. exsanguis-like material from Nicaragua to Mexico, but it is likely that multiple cryptic species occur.

Taxon Page Author History

On 2013-09-27 16:33:31 jack longino modified Identification
On 2013-09-27 13:51:05 jack longino modified Identification
On 2013-09-27 13:29:41 jack longino modified Biology

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 59 times found in mature wet forest, 29 times found in tropical moist forest, 25 times found in tropical rainforest, 21 times found in 2º lowland tropical rainforest, 10 times found in mesophyll forest, 10 times found in 2º lowland rainforest, 8 times found in lowland rainforest, 1 times found in Puesto10, 0g, 10m., 1 times found in Puesto 4, 325g.,10m., 6 times found in tropical moist forest at night, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 167 times ex sifted leaf litter, 3 times Bosque Primario, Suelo, 5 times at bait, 4 times under stone, 1 times Road to San Luis below Stucky's farm, 1100m. Scrubby veg. and pasture edges. Sha, 1 times nest in clay bank, 2 times Malaise trap, 1 times leaf litter, 1 times in excavated soil of clay bank, 1 times Humid forest patch surrounded by dry forest ("Bosque Humedo"). Ex sifted leaf li, 1 times Hojarasca, ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 128 times MiniWinkler, 24 times Berlese, 30 times MaxiWinkler, 10 times search, 8 times Mini Winkler, 6 times Night MiniWinkler, 5 times Baiting, 4 times Winkler, 1 times Blacklight, 2 times Malaise, 1 times Pan Trap, ...

Elevations: collected from 25 - 1660 meters, 293 meters average

Type specimens: Holotype of Acropyga robae: casent0903182; syntype of Acropyga bruchi: casent0912354

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