Encyclopedia of Social Insects

Living Edition
| Editors: Christopher Starr

Giant Amazonian Ants (Dinoponera)

  • Justin O. SchmidtEmail author
  • William L. Overal
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_50-1

The genus Dinoponera has the distinction of having the largest worker ants in the world. J. Roger described the genus in 1861 without saying exactly why he chose the name. He did, however, note that the ants were large and similar to the genus Ponera. The Greek root “dino” can mean “large” and “terrifying,” so the genus name was evidently intended to suggest that these are big, frightening Ponera. One meaning of the Greek “ponera” is “vicious,” so that the genus name as a whole suggests that these ants are not only very large but also aggressive and frightening. This is both unflattering and misleading, as it is our experience that these ants are quite timid, docile, and mild-mannered. It would have been much more appropriate to have given them a name meaning “gentle giant,” but the rules of nomenclature have fixed the name Dinoponera, however, unfortunate.

The genus comprises eight known species, all found in forests and savannas of South America from the Southern Cone to Guyana [ 8]....
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southwestern Biological InstituteTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Museu Paraense Emílio GoeldiBelémBrazil