, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 211-218

“Wall-papering” and elaborate nest architecture in the ponerine antHarpegnathos saltator

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Excavation of 18 nests ofHarpegnathos saltator from southern India revealed an unusually complex architecture for a ponerine ant. The inhabited chambers are not deep in the ground. The uppermost chamber is protected by a thick vaulted roof, on the outside of which is an intervening space serving as isolation from the surrounding soil. In large colonies, the vaulted roof is extended into a shell which encloses several superimposed chambers. Little openings, which may be encircled by moulded flanges, occur in the upper region of the shell. The inside of the chambers is partly or completely lined with strips of empty cocoons. A refuse chamber is always found deeper than the inhabited chambers; live dipteran larvae (family Milichiidae) are typically present. These elaborate nests represent a large energetic investment, and we speculate therefore that nest emigration is unlikely in this species. Consequently, colony fission may never occur, unlike other ants where gamergates reproduce.