IUCN threat status:

Critically Endangered (CR)

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Biology

These and some other Australian ants (the 'bulldog ants (Myrmeciinae)) belong to an ancient linage and have simpler social systems than other modern ants (5). Mature Nothomyrmecia colonies are generally small at 50 - 120 adults (2). The newly mated queens initiate colony foundation in groups of 2 or 3; the dominant female subsequently evicts the subordinate individuals from the nest once the first workers appear (4). The workers of the colony tend the brood and actively hunt for food on trees near the nests. They use their stings to stun prey, such as other invertebrates, which are returned without dissection (5). Unlike most species of ants, Nothomyrmecia workers are able to tolerate low temperatures and tend to forage after dusk when temperatures have dropped to 5 - 10 °C (2). It is thought that the low temperatures may assist foraging, making prey slower and therefore less likely to escape (2). Workers navigate between the nests and forage trees by using the silhouette of the tree canopy like a map (4). The most significant and unique primitive features of Nothomyrmecia are behavioural (5). Unlike all other studied ants, there is virtually no evidence of worker division of labour within the nests, although some individuals spend extended periods near the queen, and some may act as guards within the nest entrances for up to several days (5). Field experiments involving the marking of foragers and later excavation of subject colonies, show that all but one or two workers may leave the nest to forage over a period of only 2 or 3 nights; the exceptions are believed to be the entrance guards (5). Thus the most elementary and minimal level of task specialisation seen in other ants (that between foragers and in-nest specialists) is absent. Otherwise the workers forage alone and show no evidence of cooperative behaviour, apart from living together in the nest (5). Nothomyrmecia has been referred to as the 'least sociable' of all ants (5).

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Source: ARKive

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