Aug 5
Australian ant (Nothomyrmecia macrops)

Australian ant (Nothomyrmecia macrops)

Species: Australian ant (Nothomyrmecia macrops)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Unlike all other studied ants, there is almost no evidence of division of labour in worker Australian ants.

Also known as the dinosaur ant, the Australian ant is probably the most primitive species of ant still alive today. These ants have simpler social systems than modern ant species, and their colonies are small, with just 50 to 120 adults. Referred to as the least sociable of all ants, Australian ant workers forage alone and show no evidence of cooperative behaviour apart from living together in the nest alongside their reproductive queen.

All workers will tend the brood inside the nests and also actively hunt outside of the nest. They use their sting to stun prey such as other invertebrates. Unlike most species of ant, Nothomyrmecia workers are able to tolerate low temperatures and tend to forage after dusk when temperatures drop. This is thought to aid in hunting as other invertebrates slow in colder temperatures.

Australian ants are closely associated with eucalyptus trees and are therefore extremely reliant on these species. An underground telephone line was installed at the famous rediscovery site near Poochera, and this led to the almost complete destruction of the then only known population. Now, Australian ants are known to occur at 18 locations. There are currently no conservation measures to protect this species.

Find out more about the Australian ant on the Australian Government Website.

See photos and moving footage of the Australian ant on ARKive