Armoured Giants of Australia

A colony of 12 workers in a test tube setup.

Let’s take a quick look at a quiet genus of ant hiding among the soils of Australia’s eucalypt forests, Pseudoneoponera sp.

At a quick glance they could be mistaken for a green headed Rhytidoponera ant due to the similar shape and distinctively armored exoskeleton, but these girls actually reside in a genus of their own consisting of about 20 different species. Weighing in at sizes up to an enormous 20mm these ants could give Australia’s other large ants a run for their money.

Photo by Alex Wild

Large ants in the wild often have problems with invading smaller ants but Pseudoneoponera has come up with an ingenious defense against these smaller marauders. They can produce a foam from the venom gland that will stop an attacking ant in its tracks. They also possess a painful sting to combat larger foes.

Queens of the Australian species have never been found and colonies survive through the means of gamergates which will often mate with males from within the same colony. Colonies have never been known to exceed 20 workers and nests remain small because of this. I was lucky enough to find a nest on my property and excavated 12 workers and a few pupae for further study.

Next time you're out ant hunting keep an eye out for these reclusive armored giants.


OtherBrian Martell