What is the World's Largest Species of Ant?

A Dinoponera ant.
A Dinoponera ant.

Ants are relatively small insects classified under the Formicidae family. These insects are believed to have evolved from the wasp-like insects during the Cretaceous Period, approximately 140 million years ago. Ants are found in almost every part of the Earth except for Antarctica. These insects are capable of surviving in a wide range of habitats, and are said to form around 15-25% of the total terrestrial animal biomass. Ants can thrive in different habitats due to their ability to modify the environment they are in and their ability to defend themselves.

Ants live in colonies with various fertile males referred to as drones and a fertile queen. Ants are classified as eusocial insects; they are capable of dividing labor in their different colonies and also solve complex problems. Although more than 12,000 ant species exist in the world, the species all have the same morphological features. Despite their similarity in morphological features and characteristics, the sizes of ants vary greatly. The Dinoponera ant is the largest living ant species in the world.

The World's Largest Ant

The Dinoponera species is classified under the Ponerine subfamily. Other common names of this species include giant Amazon ants and tocandiras. The standard ant size is approximated to be around 0.030-2.0 cm; however, the Dinoponera ants are observed to grow way past this height. The female Dinoponera ants can measure around 3 to 4 cm making this species of ants the largest in the world. The size of the Dinoponera ants is the most distinguishing feature that differentiates it from the rest of the ant species.

The closest species of ants that is almost similar to the Dinoponera is the Pachycondyla species of ants. Scientists have even regarded the Pachycondyla as the sister taxa to the Dinoponea. The only difference between these two species is the presence of two laterally protruding clypeal teeth observed in the Dinoponera species. There are different categories of ants of the Dinoponera species, each having different sizes of colonies. For instance, the colonies of the Dinoponera australis are composed of an average of fourteen workers, the Dinoponera gigantea has an average of 41 workers, while the Dinoponera quadriceps has around 80 workers making it the largest colony among the Dinoponera species. New colonies can be formed by the process of fission. During this process, the female is usually fertilized in the natal nest. After fertilization, this alpha female now leaves the natal nest in search for a new colony accompanied with workers.

Where Are the Dinoponera Ants Found?

Although ants are found almost everywhere on earth, the Dinoponera ant species are strictly a South American genus, therefore, this species can only be found in the South American regions. The Dinoponera ants are mostly found in the montane rain-forest, which is situated on the slopes of the Andes, the lowland rainforest of Brazil, Guyana, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador, and to the savannas of Colombia.


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