Hypoponera ragusai (Emery)

Bolton, B. & Fisher, B. L., 2011, Taxonomy of Afrotropical and West Palaearctic ants of the ponerine genus Hypoponera Santschi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)., Zootaxa 2843, pp. 1-118: 94-97

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Hypoponera ragusai (Emery)


Hypoponera ragusai (Emery)  HNS 

Ponera ragusai Emery  HNS  , 1894: 28. Syntype worker, ITALY: Sicily (E. Ragusa) (MSNG) [examined]. [Species also described as new by Emery, 1895: 65. Combination in Hypoponera  HNS  : Baroni Urbani, 1971: 18.] (See note 1.)

Ponera gleadowi Forel  HNS  , in Emery, 1895: 60 (footnote; also in key). Syntype workers and worker-queen intercastes, INDIA: Poona, XVII/1 and XI/3 (R.C. Wroughton) (MHNG) and INDIA: 91 – 76 (R.C. Wroughton) (BMNH) [examined] Syn. n. [ Ponera gleadowi Emery  HNS  , 1893: 242; nomen nudum, attributed to Forel. Combination in Hypoponera  HNS  : Taylor, 1967: 12.] (See note 2.)

Ponera gleadowii r. decipiens Forel  HNS  , 1899: 118. Holotype worker, HAWAIIAN IS: Kauai I., on coast (R.C.L. Perkins) (MHNG) [not seen]. Syn. n. [Previously junior synonym of gleadowi  HNS  : Onoyama, 1989: 5.] (See note 3.)

Ponera gleadowi subsp. aethiopica Forel  HNS  , 1907b: 132. Syntype alate queen, ETHIOPIA: Tchafianani, 1905 (M de Rothschild) (MHNG) [examined] Syn. n. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of Ponera aethiopica Smith  HNS  , F. 1858: 91 (now in Streblognathus ). Raised to species: Bernard, 1953: 199 (in key). Combination in Hypoponera  HNS  : Bolton, 1995: 213.] (See note 4.)

Ponera ragusai var. santschii Emery  HNS  , 1909: 371, fig. 9. Syntype workers, worker-queen intercastes, queens and ergatoid male, TUNISIA: Kairouan, 2.x.1906 (F. Santschi); syntype worker, ALGERIA: Biskra (Noualhier); syntype worker, ISRAEL: Haifa ( “ Syrien, Kaifa, ” on data label) (Reitter) (MSNG, NHMB, BMNH) [NHMB and BMNH examined]. Syn. n. [Combination in Hypoponera  HNS  : Bolton, 1995: 216.] (See note 5.)

Ponera japonica r. formosae Forel  HNS  , 1913b: 186. Syntype workers, TAIWAN: Anping (H. Sauter) (MHNG) [not seen]. Syn. n. [Previously junior synonym of gleadowi  HNS  : Taylor, 1967: 76.]

Ponera lesnei Bondroit  HNS  , 1916: 212, fig. Holotype worker, FRANCE: Dept. de la Seine, Bécon-sur-Bruyères (Lesne) (MNHN) [examined]. [Junior synonym of ragusai  HNS  : Bernard, 1967: 88.] (See note 6.)

Ponera parva Bondroit  HNS  , 1918: 85. Holotype worker, FRANCE: Marseille (A. Grouvelle) (not in MNHN, presumed lost). [Junior primary homonym of Ponera parva Forel  HNS  , 1909: 244. Junior synonym of ragusai  HNS  : Bernard, 1967: 88.] (See note 7.)

Ponera massiliensis Bondroit  HNS  , 1920: 158. [Replacement name for Ponera parva Bondroit  HNS  , 1918: 85. Junior synonym of ragusai : Bernard, 1967: 88.]

Ponera gyptis Santschi  HNS  , 1921c: 435. [Unnecessary (second) replacement name for parva Bondroit  HNS  , 1918: 85. Junior synonym of ragusai  HNS  : Bernard, 1967: 88.]

Ponera oblongiceps Smith  HNS  , M.R., 1939: 76, figs. 1 – 3. Syntype workers, queens and ergatoid males, U.S.A.: Maryland, Priest Bridge (A.B. Gurney) (USNM) [not seen]. Syn. n. [Previously junior synonym of gleadowi  HNS  : Taylor, 1968: 65.]


1 Emery (1894) mentions two worker syntypes of ragusai  HNS  but only one remains in MSNG and unfortunately the specimen lacks its head. A detached Hypoponera  HNS  head, found by Dr Fabio Penati (MSNG) in the same box as the ragusai  HNS  syntype, together with some other Hypoponera  HNS  species, is not associated with the ragusai  HNS  body. It is certain that the detached head does not belong to ragusai  HNS  because, compared to the illustrations of ragusai  HNS  in Emery (1909), the scapes are very long (SI 110), and about 10% of the scape length projects beyond the midpoint of the posterior margin of the head in full-face view. Also, the eye consists of 4 ommatidia and is located more posteriorly than is seen in any member of the punctatissima  HNS  group. Measurements of the headless ragusai  HNS  syntype are: PrW 0.34, WL 0.74, PeNL 0.18, PeH 0.30, PeNW 0.22, PeS 0.233, PeNI 65, LPeI 60, DPeI 122.

2 Forel, in Emery (1895) mentioned three Indian localities and three collectors for the syntype series of gleadowi : Poona (Wroughton), Orissa (Ta y l o r ) and Thana (Gleadow). Only the first series appears to be extant, in MHNG and BMNH; the locations of the other two series are not known and they do not appear to have survived. The syntypes in MHNG consist of two pins. The first pin bears a complete worker on an upper mount and its card has a star drawn on it; the lower mount has an almost destroyed worker specimen of which only a few leg fragments and apex of gaster remain. The second pin has a broken worker on the upper mount, which has the petiole and gaster missing, the mesosoma is at the apex of the mount and the head is detached and glued down closer to the pin. The lower mount carries a complete worker-queen intercaste. The BMNH syntypes consist of 10 workers and a worker-queen intercaste glued in a row on a single card. The data label reads, “ India. R.C. Wroughton 91 –76”, below which is a folded handwritten label “ Ponera gleadowi  HNS  ”. The BMNH Accessions Register for 1891, no. 76 records that these specimens arrived at the museum in alcohol and were “ collected by the donor and determined by M. Forel. ”

An alate queen and a male described by Forel (1900b: 327) as the sexuals of gleadowi  HNS  were examined in this study (MHNG). These specimens were not collected with workers, and Forel’s assumption that they were conspecific with the gleadowi  HNS  worker syntypes now appears incorrect. Emery (1909) remarked that he could not satisfactorily separate workers of ragusai santschii  HNS  and gleadowi  HNS  , but that the queens of the two indicated that they were separate species. The conclusion reached here is that ragusai santschii  HNS  and gleadowi  HNS  , based on their type-material, represent a single species (the first available name for which is ragusai  HNS  ), but that the Indian queen and male assumed by Forel (1900b) to be gleadowi  HNS  and accepted as such by Emery (1909), are something different and should be excluded from further consideration of this species. The possibility that workers of ragusai  HNS  and gleadowi  HNS  represented a single species was first raised by Forel (1899), and a direct comparison of their syntypes made in this study confirms that his speculation was correct.

3 The synonymic history of decipiens  HNS  is complex. The name was first synonymised with gleadowi  HNS  by Wilson (1958: 328). It was later transferred to the synonymy of punctatissima  HNS  by Wilson & Taylor (1967: 29, in text). Finally, the holotype was examined by Onoyama (1989: 5), who re-established decipiens  HNS  as a junior synonym of gleadowi  HNS  . These references were inadvertently omitted from the catalogue of Bolton (1995).

4 From the original description of aethiopica  HNS  more than one specimen would be expected, as two measurements are provided. However, only a single syntype specimen remains in MHNG, and that is lacking its head. Comparison of this aethiopica  HNS  syntype with queens included in the type-series of santschii  HNS  indicates that treatment as a single species is the most parsimonious conclusion.

5 The Tunisian material collected by Santschi forms almost the entire type-series of ragusai santschii  HNS  , added to which is a single worker from Algeria that had previously been referred to as gleadowi  HNS  by Emery (1895), and some unspecified material from Syria. The Tunisian series had earlier been described by Santschi (1907) as ragusai  HNS  and was later made type-material of santschii  HNS  by Emery (1909). Material from the Syrian locality is not referred to in the text and no information about it is given. However, a single worker in BMNH bears the data, “ Syrien, Kaifa (Reitter). Ragusai det. Emery. Collection G. Mayr. ” This appears to belong to the “Syria” material mentioned by Emery (1909) and has been labelled as such. The modern geography would be Haifa, in Israel.

Many years ago, R.W. Taylor recognised the equivalence of ragusai santschii  HNS  with gleadowi  HNS  , as in 1964 he placed a determination label “gleadowi” upon a pin of santschii  HNS  syntypes.

6 The holotype of lesnei  HNS  has a slightly broader head than in other material measured, with HW 0.50, CI 82, as opposed to HW 0.43 – 0.47, CI 74 – 79 in the others. However, lesnei  HNS  is extremely close to the range maxima given by Onoyama (1989) for Japanese worker specimens, HW 0.45 – 0.49, CI 75 – 81, and is near his dimensions for an intercaste (HW 0.51, CI 81). The holotype of lesnei  HNS  is treated as a worker here, but it may represent some form of intercaste. The critical petiolar measurements and indices of lesnei  HNS  (LPeI 60, DPeI 133) are all within the normal range of ragusai  HNS  workers.

7 Dr Claire Villemant (MNHN) informs us that the holotype of parva  HNS  (= massiliensis  HNS  , = gyptis  HNS  ) is not present in the collection. We can find no reason to doubt Bernard’s synonymy and so we allow it to stand here. WORKER. Measurements: HL 0.56 – 0.62, HW 0.42 – 0.50, HS 0.490 – 0.555, SL 0.36 – 0.43, PrW 0.32 – 0.38, WL 0.68 – 0.78, HFL 0.34 – 0.42, PeNL 0.16 – 0.18, PeH 0.26 – 0.30, PeNW 0.20 – 0.24, PeS 0.203 – 0.247 (17 measured). Indices: CI 74 – 82, SI 81 – 87, PeNI 62 – 68, LPeI 55 – 61, DPeI 120 – 140.

Answering the general description of punctatissima  HNS  and superficially very similar to the smallest workers of that species, but the shape and relative dimensions of the petiole node are consistently different.

1 In profile the petiole node of ragusai  HNS  is more blocky, lower and relatively longer, with PeH 0.26 – 0.30 and LPeI 55 – 61. (In punctatissima  HNS  , PeH 0.30 – 0.39 and LPeI 43 – 53.)

2 In dorsal view the petiole node of ragusai  HNS  is longer and relatively narrower, DPeI 120 – 140. (In punctatissima , DPeI 140 – 165.)

In addition to these differences in the shape of the petiole node, ragusai  HNS  workers are always yellow to light brownish yellow, fall at the bottom end of the known size range of punctatissima  HNS  (e.g. HW 0.42 – 0.50, versus 0.46 – 0.60 in punctatissima  HNS  ) and have heads that average relatively slightly narrower and scapes that are relatively slightly longer than in punctatissima  HNS  ; compare CI and SI above with CI 79 – 87 and SI 75 – 84 in punctatissima  HNS  . Finally, the queen of ragusai  HNS  is considerably darker in colour than her workers, whereas in punctatissima  HNS  the two castes have the same colour.

Under the name H. ragusai  HNS  this species is recorded by scattered small collections, usually of only one or two workers, and at first glance is distributed over an enormous geographical range. In a recent paper, Tinaut (2001) newly recorded the species from Spain (but see below) and summarised the known distribution of ragusai  HNS  as Italy (Sicily), southern France, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, central Sahara and eastern Africa. In addition, Dorow (1995) has recorded it from the Seychelles and Collingwood & Agosti (1996) have noted it in Saudi Arabia. Tinaut, quoting Mei (1992), said that, “ it is doubtful that all these records refer to the same species ”, a comment with which we fully agree because the entire group is plagued with misidentifications. The records from “ eastern Africa ” probably refer only to the catalogued names ragusai bulawayensis  HNS  from Zimbabwe, and ragusai sordida  HNS  from Kenya, but it is now known that neither of these is correctly associated with ragusai  HNS  . H. bulawayensis  HNS  is a valid species in an entirely different species group ( abeillei  HNS  group) and ragusai sordida  HNS  is a junior synonym of punctatissima  HNS  . The same problem of confused identity appears also to affect Tinaut’s (2001) paper itself, because his fig. 1, supposedly of the petiole of ragusai  HNS  , has an LPeI ca 46, which is within the range of punctatissima  HNS  but considerably below that of ragusai  HNS  (LPI 55 – 61). He also notes the presence of two castes of ergatoid male, eyed and eyeless, which are known for punctatissima  HNS  but not elsewhere. It is most probable that his ragusai  HNS  material consists of misidentified specimens of punctatissima  HNS  . Thus, the only genuine earlier records for the circum-Mediterranean area include the original descriptions and those summarised in Baroni Urbani (1971) for Italy (Sicily), Bernard (1967) for France, and Emery (1909) for Tunisia, Algeria and Syria. The later records from Seychelles and Saudi Arabia await confirmation .

On a world-wide scale, ragusai  HNS  is better known by its junior synonym, gleadowi  HNS  , which was generally considered to be primarily Oriental, but obviously with well-developed tramping ability. Imai, et al. (2003) gave the known distribution of gleadowi  HNS  as India, Korean Peninsula, Japan, Taiwan, Hawaii and the continental U.S.A. More recently, Evenhuis (2007) listed it from Fiji, but this identity remains unconfirmed. H. ragusai  HNS  (= gleadowi  HNS  ) is not recorded from Polynesia by Wilson & Taylor (1967), but in view of the fact that Onoyama (1989) has shown that decipiens  HNS  , from Hawaii and treated by Wilson & Taylor as a junior synonym of punctatissima  HNS  , belongs to this species, it is likely to be present but misidentified among their punctatissima  HNS  material. Indeed, Wilson & Taylor (1967: 29) hint at this possibility. In all places and under both names the species appears to be rare, or perhaps collectors have mostly missed its favoured habitat.

The worker-queen intercaste in the syntype series of gleadowi  HNS  has eyes with 12 – 15 ommatidia. The ergatoid male resembles that of punctatissima  HNS  as it has a very worker-like head and mandibles, but it has 13 antennal segments as opposed to 12 in punctatissima  HNS  . H. gleadowi  HNS  workers from Japan were redescribed by Onoyama (1989) and an intercaste was also mentioned by him. A reasonable photograph of ragusai  HNS  (as gleadowi  HNS  ) is provided by Imai, et al. (2003: 194) and the approximate LPeI from this photograph is 59, the same as the gleadowi  HNS  worker syntype .

Material examined. Italy: Sicily (E. Ragusa). France: Dept. de la Seine, Bécon-sur-Bruyères (P . L e s n e ). Tu n i s i a : Kairouan (F. Santschi). Egypt: Cairo, Pyramids (W. Wittmer); Sinai, Wadi Feran (W. Wittmer). Ethiopia: Tchafianani (M de Rothschild). Kenya: Western Prov., Kakamega Forest, Kisere For. (F. Hita Garcia). India: Poona (Wroughton).