Learn Ant Taxonomy Family Formicidae, Formicidae Taxonomy ant anatomy and behaviors. Ants belong to Phylum Arthropoda, insect Class Insecta, Order Hymenoptera and Family Formicidae.

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Ant Taxonomy Family Formicidae

How Science Classifies Ants Within The Animal Kingdom behaviors
by Carolyn Pararas-Carayannis

Search Terms: ants, ant taxonomy, Formicidae, family Formicidae, arthropoda, hymenoptera, ant behaviors, ant anatomy, ant videos, insect definitions

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Taxonomy is the science of species classification. It is the scientific classification of organisms into specially named groups based either on shared characteristics or on evolutionary relationships as inferred from the fossil record or established by genetic analysis. Additionally, Taxonomy provides a framework that enables us to undertake studies regarding the relationships between living things (phylogenic studies), so that we are better able to understand evolutionary processes, assess bio diversity and more efficiently manage it. This combination of taxonomic and phylogenic studies is called systematics (American Heritage Science Dictionary, 2005; Australian Museum Online, 2007). hymenoptera

The following article lists the taxonomic hierarchy of ants (Family: Formicidae) and describes the characteristics of the phylum, order and family to which they belong.

Ant Taxonomy - Family Formicidae behaviors

Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Arthropoda, Subphylum: Hexapoda, Class: Insecta, Subclass: Pterygota, Infraclass: Neoptera, Order: Hymenoptera, Suborder: Apocrita, Infraorder: Aculeata, Superfamily: Vespoidea, Family: Formicidae (ITIS, 2006). behaviors

Colony Community Life ...Colony Caste Divisions - worker queen male .. Stages of Development - egg larvae pupae

Phylum Arthropoda taxonomy

Ants belong to phylum Arthropoda which is perhaps the largest and most diverse phylum of the animal kingdom. Over one million animal species, 75% of all the known fossils and living organisms, are categorized within this phylum. Additionally, when one takes into account the consensus among scientists that many Arthropod species still remain undocumented or undiscovered, the total number of species within this phylum has been estimated to be significantly higher, numbering into the tens of millions. behaviors

Some examples of Arthropods include sea crustaceans - such as lobsters, shrimp, crayfish, barnacles and extinct marine trilobites, (circa 544-250 million years ago), airborne insects such as bees and wasps, and their terrestrial cousins - ants, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, symphylans (small garden centipedes), and pauropodans (very small organism, sister category of millipede). taxonomy

Organisms classified under Arthropoda are characterized by their segmented bodies covered with jointed exoskeletons. Exoskeletons are rigid cuticles made largely of chitin and proteins which, may or may not - depending upon the species - be further hardened with calcium carbonate (ie. lobsters). These inelastic armored encasements, whether firm or pliable, are shed (molted) by the animal at intervals in order to accommodate body growth and/or biomorphic change. This process of molting is called ecdysis and is common to Arthropods, other ecdysozoans (i.e. worms and centipedes) and reptiles, like lizards and snakes. As old cuticles are shed, new accommodating exoskeletons are secreted by the animal. This process repeats itself for the life of the animal. behaviors

Other characterizations of phylum Arthropoda include: body segments that exhibit bilaterally paired, jointed appendages, complex nervous systems with dorsal brains, connective nerves passing around the anterior portion of the digestive tract and a ventral nerve cord with a ganglion in each each body segment. They exhibit open circulatory systems with a tubular, dorsal blood vessel that directs blood flow forward towards the brain, reduced body cavities, complete digestive systems with a tubular alimentary canal, mouth and anus, and striated muscle fibers in their skeletal system. Most reproduce sexually, exhibit bilateral body symmetry and breathe either by gills, tracheae or spiracle. hymenoptera

Within phylum Arthropoda, four subphyla comprise fifteen different classes of animal life (ITIS, 2004) and group hundreds of thousands of geographically diverse, terrestrial, air borne and aquatic species. taxonomy

The four subphyla of Arthropoda and their respective classes are: behaviors

1. Subphylum Chelicerata: comprised of three classes - Arachnida (spiders), Merostomata (horseshoe crabs), and Pycnogonida (sea spiders).

2. Subphylum Crustacea: comprised of six classes - Branchiopoda (mainly freshwater fairy shrimps & water fleas), Cephalocardia (small crustaceans), Malacostracea (isopods, amphipods - sand fleas, krill, crabs, shrimp, lobsters), Maxillopoda (copepods/reefpods, barnacles), Ostracoda (minute - seed or mussel shrimp) and Remipedia (blind crustaceans found in deep within caves connected to salt-water - new class, rare). behaviors

3. Subphylum Hexapoda*: comprised of two classes - Entognatha (very small, wingless springtails, allies & two-pronged bristletails) and the Class Insecta* [jumping bristletails and silverfish, modern wing-folding insects - Infraclass Neoptera*, and ancient winged insects]. Lastly, taxonomy

4. Subphylum Myriapoda: comprised of four classes - Chilopoda (centipedes), Diplopoda (millipedes), Pauropoda (pauropods - very small relative of millipedes), and Symphyla (small garden centipedes).

*Family Formicidae, under which "ants" are classified, is found by following Subphylum Hexapoda downward through its sub classifications of : Class Insecta, Infraclass Neoptera (modern winged-folding insects), Order Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps), Suborder Apocrita (ants, bees, hymenopterans, true wasps), Infraorder Aculeata, and Superfamily Vespoidea (vespoid wasps), respectively. Taxonomy

Order Hymenoptera behaviors

Since ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors, they exhibit very similar physical characteristics as their predecessors and are thus classified under the order hymenoptera, the same order under which various families of bees, wasps and sawflies are categorized. Literally meaning "membranous wings", Hymenoptera is one of the largest groupings within Class Insecta. Worldwide it is the third largest order of insects and contains six major Families: Apidae (honey and bumble bees), Braconidae (parasitic wasps), Cynipidae (gall wasps), Scoliidae (scoliid wasps), Vespidae (hornets and yellow jackets) and Formicidae (ants). Learn Arthropoda behaviors

Most species within Order Hymenoptera:

1. exhibit two pairs of wings (except for worker ants), where anterior and posterior wing sets are hooked together and operate in unison while in flight to form single, aerodynamic surfaces;

2. live in colonies with evolved, complex social systems and divisions of labor and are narrowly adapted to specific habitats &/or hosts, although the order as a whole exhibits a wide range of behavioral adaptation.

3. are predominately predatory or parasitic (herbivores do exist). behaviors

All species have mandibulate mouth parts.

Benefits to Environment. hymenoptera

Although many of us view Hymenopterans as pests, they are actually quite beneficial and serve necessary ecological functions within their sphere of influence.

1. Parasitic species of ants and wasps help to keep other insect populations at bay and thus provide a natural control of other insect populations. Behaviors

2. Some Hymenopterans develop close symbiotic & obligatory relationships with other local species.

3. Bees and ants are pollinators of plants and aid with seed dispersal.

4. Some plants rely on the ants dwelling within them to keep herbivore predators away.

5. The burrowing activities of soil dwelling ants, along with their deposits of accumulated organic matter, aerate the soil and facilitate the cycling of nutrients which alter soil physical, chemical and micro biological processes for the better.

Conversely, many species of ants and bees rely on the nectar and fluids that plants produce. Hymenoptera predator species rely on certain plants to attract pests for their eating pleasure (i.e. citrus trees & the soil-pupating citrus pest; aphid cultivation). Once pests are attracted, some predator Hymenopterans aggressively protect them (the pests) from their natural enemies in order to "farm" them for themselves. This interrupts the natural biological control of these pests and, overtime, the plant succumbs.

Family Formicidae, Ants taxonomy

Twenty subfamilies compose Family Formicidae (ITIS, 2006) and as of December, 2008 there have been 12,471 species recorded (Antbase, 2005). Over twice the number of recorded species are believed to exit. Ants thrive throughout the world in all geographic locations except for a few remote islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, Greenland, Iceland and the polar regions. Formicidae (ants) range in size from 0.75 to 52 mm (0.030 to 2.0 in) and vary in color. Most are red or black, green is rare, and some tropical species have a metallic luster (Wikipedia, 2008). arthropoda

Ants are covered with an exoskeleton and exhibit much the same anatomical and physiological attributes as were listed under Phylum Arthropoda.

Ants have:

1. three main body regions: the head, thorax and abdomen (metasoma),

2. two compound eyes*, one on each side of their head,

3. two long bowed antennae on top of their head,

4. mandibular mouth parts,

5. a thin neck,

6. six legs attached to the region of their thorax and a characteristic slim "waist", which appears "pinched" posteriorly at the junction of their thorax and metasoma.

All ants breathe air via spiracles and most have a metapleural gland that produces phenylacetic acid (deters the growth of fungi and bacteria).

* A compound eye is a convex eye is composed of many, individual light-sensitive units, each with their own functional lense and visual receptor cells (rhabdom). Each unit detects light on its own but there is no pinpoint resolution - like an eye with a central lense and retina would produce. Units function collectively and although resolution is poor the animal can detect quick movements of another, near-by individual. Arthrododa exhibit three different types of compound eyes, depending upon the animals' sub classification. Although outward appearance of eyes may be similar, the physiology of light refraction of the different types vary.

1. National Geographic: The Wild City of Ants.

Complexity of the social organization within the colony.

video #55tXhnlZoOg


2. Symbiosis - worker ants farming aphids

video: v=pqSZC7btVsA


3. Community Cooperation - worker ant using its own body as a bridge for other worker ants

video: v=29CeYntA8ZA



4. Complex Social Behaviors & Self-Sacrifice of Ants Within Their Community

video: v=WIzsvSQUUN0

Colony Life & Community Behaviors.

Formicidae species are eusocial and live in colonies that exhibit evolved, complex social systems with divisions of labor. They cooperate in caring for their young, share a common nest site with complex tunnels and chambers, and exhibit a reproductive division of labor where sterile, female individuals work for the benefit of a few, reproductive individuals.

As soon able, the young begin to work and contribute to colony labor while parents are still alive. Although ants have set tasks within the colony, it is not uncommon for individuals to change jobs for a time when help might be deficient in another area. For instance, a worker ant that usually retrieves food for the colony might temporarily switch jobs to assist other workers repair a damaged nest.

Ants use pheromones to communicate with one another. Pheromones are specialized chemicals secreted by the ant which assists them to recognize colony members, mark trails to food and water sources, determine the caste of another individual and signal others for emergency measures (i.e. attack, defense and/or aid).

Tactile communication is used when a nest-mate requests liquid food from a forager to be regurgitated on demand. These requests take place between adults and the process of regurgitating food on demand to feed a requesting individual is called Trophallixis.

Formicidae Colony

Castes: Divisions of Labor. Learn Hymenoptera Behaviors

There are three major caste divisions within the ant colony. The reproductive queens, reproductive males and the sterile female workers.

fig. 1 credit to: askabiologist.asu.edu

picture of queen ant, male ant and worker female ant

Worker Ants

All worker ants are female and for the most part are sterile. Documented life-spans for workers, although climate and species-dependent, usually ranges between one and three years.

Worker ants can be predators, scavengers, harvesters or farmers. Which they become is dictated by their species. taxonomy

Although farmers are a most interesting group, their practices damage host flora overtime by interrupting the natural biological control of pests they farm.


Some farmer species tend groups of aphids and "milk" them for their "honeydew", a sweet excretion from the aphid's anus that contains surplus sugar from their diet. During the winter, these ants protect aphid eggs from natural predators and, once hatched, move the young to new host plants so they can feed and produce "honeydew" as an ongoing food supply for ant colony. Mature ants only consume sweet liquid as food retrieved from either plant fluids, prey or other farmed insect populations, such as aphids. Just colony larvae consume bits of solid food.

Another example of farming is the cultivation of a special type of fungus by leaf-cutter ants. These ants plant and cultivate fungus crops in order to tap the sweet juices of the fungus for sustenance. To keep their gardens pest-free, worker ants cultivate actinobacteria on their bodies to inhibit any pathogens that might damage or annihilate the crop. taxonomy behaviors

Whether Formicidae species are predators, scavengers, harvesters or farmers, other colony workers groom, tend eggs, care for newly hatched broods, care for the queen, defend the nest, carrying the dead outside, cut food into small pieces for the hungry larva and/or lay nonviable eggs for their ingestion, and act as food storage vessels for other adults (see Trophallixis).

Queen Ants

Depending upon the species, some colonies contain only one queen (monogyny) while others have several queens living together in the same nest sharing in egg production (polygyny). Death of a queen in a monogynous colony can annihilate the colony because the workers have no way of replacing her. Conversely, the death of a queen in a polygynous colony has much less devastating impact because other viable queens are present and these colonies often recruit and adapt another queen.

The queen ant looks quite similar in appearance to the worker of the same species but she is much greater in size. Her large magnitude is due to the anatomical variations of her body which accommodates large ovaries and a two sets of well-developed flight muscles and wings for her nuptial flight.

The role of the queen is to mate and reproduce. Mating occurs in flight, far from her original nest. After mating the queen establishes a suitable nesting site where she digs a tunnel and then seals herself into small chamber, never to emerge again. There, she lays her eggs. During this time she looses her wings and may subsist by eating some of her own eggs. In several weeks her eggs hatch and, thus, a new colony is born. Viable workers begin to begin to take care of her, the new larvae and forage for food.

As the colony grows, the queen controls the type of offspring she produces. By choosing whether or not to fertilize her eggs, using stored sperm from her nuptial flight, she can regulate the kind of offspring she will have. If she fertilizes, her offspring will be sterile female workers, or if well-nourished, winged fertile females (potential queens). If she chooses not to fertilize, she will produce only winged males.

In general, the queen enjoys a much longer life-span than her workers. The documented life-span for a queen is variable and dependents the upon location, climate and species of the individual. Life-spans range from as short as 3 months, to 14 years, and even as long as 29 years, in captivity.

Male Ants

Male ants are small and emerge from unfertilized eggs. They have well developed wings and flight muscles and very large, compound eyes. Their sole purpose is to mate with queens from other nests. Except for a few species, they do no other work. Mating takes place in the air during the "nuptial flight" and once the male mates, he dies. The life span for males is about eight weeks long.

Stages of Development.

Ants undergo a process of complete metamorphosis. The four distinct, sequential and very different anatominical and physiological stages of development are: egg, larvae, pupa and adult.

picture of stages of complete metamorhposis, life cyle of ant.Egg Stage

Small, pearly white eggs are produced by the queen in her chamber. If she fertilizes the egg with sperm stored from her "nuptial flight", her offspring will become female. Conversely, if her egg remains unfertilized her offspring will become male. Once produced caretaker worker ants carry the eggs to a another chamber where they cared for. Workers arrange them in groups and then clean and rotate them frequently to

fig.2 credit to: ant-photos.com

keep them from getting moldy. Humidity and temperature within the chamber are also monitored by the caretakers and the regulation of such environmental factors are accomplished by moving the eggs to other, better suited chambers. In some environments, this is a frequent task. Two to six weeks later, depending upon the species and temperature of the incubating chamber, the eggs hatch and become larvae.

Larval Stage

Ant larvae are small, white grub-like creatures that are helpless and for the most part, immobile. They would perish if not attended to. Caretaker workers monitor temperature and humidity within brood chambers and move larvae to other chambers with better environmental conditions as necessary.

During this stage of development, larvae are totally dependent upon their caretakers for food. They are fed either by trophallixis, the regurgitation of liquid food stored in the stomach (crop) of an adult, or given solid food items brought back to the nest by foraging workers. On occasion, caretaker worker ants (which are female) lay non-viable eggs for larvae to eat. This is the only time during an ants' life that it consumes solid food. Adults subsist entirely on liquid nourishment, either by direct consumption (i.e. plant nectars) or socially, by trophallixis.

Individual developmental differentiation within the colony is determined by the degree of nutrition larvae receive. Females with higher nutritional intake will become queens instead of workers. Some sources document the same holds true for the various castes of workers.

After a series of molts (approximately three weeks) the larvae enter the pupal stage.

Pupal Stage

Pupal formation is hormone-dependent. During this stage the larval anatomy of the ant is broken down and adult structures are formed. Pupae are incased in a hard protective coating and, as seen from the outside, appear immobile for the duration of time they spend in this state. Although they appear static, an explosion of internal metabolic activities take place. The term "resting phase" for the pupal stage is a great misnomer.

Like larvae, pupae are protected and cared for by caretaker worker ants. Pupae require constant temperatures to ensure proper development and are moved often by their caretakers to the best chamber available for this purpose. Unlike larvae, pupae do not eat.

This stage of development lasts for a few weeks. After shedding its hard encasement the individual emerges as a young adult ant, ready to take its position within the complex social system of the colony.


Taxonomy, the science of species classification, facilitates cohort study of organisms because species, classified within the same Family, have similar genetics, behaviors, anatomy and physiology .

Taxonomic studies continue to resolve the classification and systematics of ants. Online databases of ant species, including AntBase and the Hymenoptera Name Server, help to keep track of the known and newly described species. The relative ease with which ants can be sampled and studied in ecosystems has made them useful as indicator species in bio diversity studies (Wikipedia, 2008).

Back To Taxonomy Classification: Phylum Arthropoda Order Hymenoptera Family Formicidae

info-now.org/ants provides Ant Taxonomy Family Formicidae, Formicidae taxonomy, anatomy and behaviors of ants. Ants belong to Phylum Arthropoda, insect Class Insecta, Order Hymenoptera and Family Formicidae.

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Ants are fascinating insects even though most people think of them as a nuisance. They are extremely hard workers and live in complex, underground colonies. Alone, a single ant cannot survive but as part of a team, where each ant has a particular job to do, they not only survive but they thrive. Twenty subfamilies compose Family: Formicidae (ITIS, 2006) and as of December, 2008 there have been 12,471 species recorded (Antbase, 2005). Over twice the number of recorded species are believed to exit. Ants thrive throughout the world in all geographic locations except for a few remote islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, Greenland, Iceland and the polar regions. Ants, Family: Formicidae range in size from 0.75 to 52 mm (0.030 to 2.0 in) and vary in color. Most are red or black, green is rare, and some tropical species have a metallic luster (Wikipedia, 2008). Ants are covered with read more

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Article Citation

Pararas-Carayannis, Carolyn (2008). Ant Taxonomy - Family Formicidae: How Ants Are Classified Within The Animal Kingdom. Info-Now.Org Website: http://info-now.org/ants/AntTaxonHierarchy.php .

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