An Ant Diversity Sampler

With 12,000 described species, ants dominate global terrestrial ecosystems. Here are a few of them.


Name: Nothomyrmecia macrops
Distribution: Australia
Famous for: The story of its rediscovery (As told by Bill Bryson- scroll down)


Name: Dinoponera australis
Distribution: South America
Famous for: being the largest ant in the western hemisphere


Name: Polyergus sp.
Distribution: North America
Famous for: piracy, taking of prisoners


Name: Dorylus helvolus
Distribution: Africa
Famous for: terrorizing subterranean arthropods, taking of no prisoners


Name: Pogonomyrmex maricopa
Distribution: North America
Famous for: the most venemous sting of any North American insect


Name: Thaumatomyrmex atrox
Distribution: South America
Famous for: beguiling rarity, and amazing teeth


Name: Pseudomyrmex pallidus
Distribution: North & Central America
Famous for: its slender good looks


Name: Cephalotes atratus
Distribution: Central & South America
Famous for: gliding


Name: Atta sp.
Distribution: North, Central & South America
Famous for: monopolizing nature documentaries


Name: Solenopsis invicta
Distribution: North & South America
Famous for: general mayhem and loss of life


Name: Myrmecia piliventris
Distribution: Australia
Famous for: endangering Australians


Name: Odontomachus sp.
Distribution: South America
Famous for: general awesomeness involving jaws


Name: Oecophylla longinoda
Distribution: Africa
Famous for: exotic textiles, child labor, and organized torture of enemy combatants


Name: Amblyopone oregonensis
Distribution: North America
Famous for: drinking their children's blood


Name: Solenopsis geminata
Distribution: worldwide
Famous for: having a big head for a reason


Name: Linepithema oblongum
Distribution: South America
Famous for: nothing, yet. But her sister is famous, so just you wait.

More like this

...well, not really.  But an exchange I had at Photo Synthesis with Andrew Bleiman of Zooillogix got me thinking about all the different insects that have charmingly envenomated me at one time or another. Myrmecia piliventris, Australia So I'm starting a meme called Things That Have Stung Me. …
By request, I have now organized the ant photos by subfamily.  This mimics the arrangement from the old site.  For the smug-muggers out there who want to know how it works, I basically set up an "old journal" gallery and put the genus names and links into the caption box.  I used CSS to set all…
Figure 1. For the 32 most-studied ant species, the percentage of publications 1984-2008 in various contexts. In thinking about where the myrmecological community ought to devote resources in the age of genomics, it occcured to me that putting some numbers on where researchers have previously…
My earlier list of the most-studied ant species contained a few omissions.  Here is a more inclusive list: Ant species sorted by number of BIOSIS-listed publications, 1984-2008 The Top 10 Species Publications Solenopsis invicta 984 Linepithema humile 343 Lasius niger 250 Formica rufa 167 Atta…

Australian Bull ants: they say enough bites will kill you??
I slept out once, near Mildura, home of the biggest raisins.
I awoke to bull ants on my sleeping bag. They were not hostile.
I carefully and respectfully dressed and left, without dissing those ants. One ant could carry off one Mildura raisin.

Wonderful ant sampler! However, the wikipedia link you give for Polyergus includes the following extraordinarily bogus statement: "Polyergus males (raiders) will emerge from their nest (a mixed nest where Formica workers are already enslaved) and forage for a suitable raid target. If one is found, the male will return to the nest, rally the other Polyergus." It would be nice if someone could edit that article.

Beautiful photos and I love your captions!

Amazing photos! What camera & lens is this ?
And more importantly, how did you manage to make them stand still while you took the snaps ?


They are terrifying and beautiful at the same time. Gorgeous images. Liked the captions best of all. What an interesting blog. I'll visit again.

Wonderful pictures, intriguing captions, interesting links - everything the reader wants!

A scale bar would be useful addition. I'd like to know the size of these guys and gals.

By Onkel Bob (not verified) on 13 Apr 2009 #permalink

They're gorgeous! And the Odontomachus is striking a beautiful pose! I kept seeing them running around in Panama. It took me a few sightings to realize that I recognized the genus of ants that seemed to have little letter Ts for heads.

By Julie Stahlhut (not verified) on 13 Apr 2009 #permalink

Has anyone ever done any work on studying the ant colony as a meta-organism? I am not a biologist, but I'm especially interested in work involving the ant colony's "mind" - the idea that the hive is more intelligent than the individual. If anyone knows about this, please let me know:

You took that photo at 3.00am in the morning and temperature around zero it was cold.

By Keith Holley (not verified) on 14 Apr 2009 #permalink

Absolutely lovely ant portraits, Alex! I only aspire to this level of artistry (and focus!).

To Carol H.:
I am working on a taxonomic revision and behavior/ecology review of Polyergus, and once edited the material on the genus at Wikipedia. Some angry fellow then edited it back and made editors's comments along the lines that I was a know-it-all, discrediting the work of knowledgeable amateurs, blah, blah, blah. I welcome someone else to make the effort. If you want to change the link, Alex, you could use my discussion of a common Mississsippi Valley species at….

By James C. Trager (not verified) on 14 Apr 2009 #permalink

So many amazing ants and all we have is boring Lasius Niger...

Thinking about childhood experience with insects: Most of them were creepy untouchables (Eww! Get it off me!). Only three seemed friendly and harmless - june bugs, cicadas ... and ants.

Alex, absolutely incredible work, these pics, your pics of mosquito larvae, and others! Beautiful beautiful stuff... and I love your captions and stories as well.

When I was a kid about all I had was Jean Henri Fabre to fly with but that was enough to inspire a lifelong fascination with insects. If I'd had your photos who knows where I would have ended up? LOL!

Many thanks!


this is sheer quality photographic art. beyond its natural history/educating purposes. Well done & thank you!