Azteca schimperi Emery,

Longino, J. T., 2007, A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group., Zootaxa 1491, pp. 1-63: 58-60

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Azteca schimperi Emery


Azteca schimperi Emery  HNS  1893

Figures 2,3,4A,5.

Azteca schimperi Emery  HNS  1893:340. Syntype workers: Costa Rica, Alajuela [10°01'N, 84°13'W, 1100m ] (Alfaro) [ MCSN, MCZC, MHNG]GoogleMaps  (examined). Description of male, queen: Forel 1908b:387.

Azteca fiebrigi Forel  HNS  1909:261. Syntype workers, queens, males: Paraguay, San Bernardino (Fiebrig), in carton nest [ MHNG]  (examined). NEW SYNONYMY

Azteca lanuginosa var. clariceps Santschi  HNS  1933:121. Syntype workers: Argentina, Pilcomayo, Tacaaglé (R. José Zurflueh), no. 1954 [ NHMB]  (examined). NEW SYNONYMY

Azteca muelleri var. pallida Stitz  HNS  1937:135. Syntype workers: Mexico, Veracruz, Misantha [Misantla?] (Gugelmann) [ ZMHB]  (examined). NEW SYNONYMY

Queen characters. Measurements (n=3 queens from Colombia, Brazil, and Paraguay): HLA 1.44 (1.40- 1.47), HW 1.05 (1.04-1.06), SL 0.97 (0.94-1.01), CI 72 (71-76), SI 69 (65-69).

Palpal formula 4,3; middle and hind tibia lacking apical spur; apical tooth of mandible about twice as long as penultimate tooth, dorsal surface shiny, smooth, with sparse piligerous puncta; medial clypeal lobe strongly convex and protruding, extending well beyond lateral clypeal lobes; head rectangular, sides parallel and flat, posterolateral margins subangular but rounded, posterior margin a moderately developed V-shaped impression; petiolar node triangular; posteroventral petiolar lobe developed, moderately convex from front to back, laterally compressed and tectiform; scape, sides and posterior margin of head with dense vestiture of short, erect setae; femora with similar setae but erect setae nearly absent from outer margins of middle and hind tibia; pronotum and mesoscutum with these short setae very sparse, more abundant on scutellum and propodeum; petiolar node and ventral margin of petiole with abundant short setae; gaster devoid of erect setae; entire body red brown, with smooth, highly polished and reflective surface.

Worker characters. Measurements (n=4): HLA 1.42 (1.16-1.51), HW 1.41 (1.18-1.45), SL 0.94 (0.85- 1.01), CI 99 (96-102), SI 68 (64-73).

Palpal formula 4,3; middle and hind tibia lacking apical spur; mandible of typical thickness at base, with microareolate sculpture, dull, becoming smooth and shiny, somewhat flattened toward masticatory margin; masticatory margin concave, curving toward enlarged apical tooth, apical tooth much larger than penultimate tooth; medial clypeal lobe strongly convex and protruding, extending well beyond lateral clypeal lobes; head with convex sides, strongly cordate posterior margin; in lateral profile promesonotum forming single convexity, evenly convex to middle of mesonotum, posterior mesonotum drops steeply to depressed basal face of propodeum; petiolar node somewhat pillow-shaped, blunt and weakly bilobed apically, posteroventral lobe shallow, weakly convex from front to back, ending posteriorly in a somewhat abrupt shelf, rising steeply to tergosternal suture, leaving distinct posterior rim on sternite, laterally very strongly compressed, forming sharp median carina (this character less developed on South American material); scape, entire head capsule, mesosoma, legs, petiolar node, and gastral dorsum with appressed pubescence but completely lacking erect setae; color clear yellow orange to red brown, face shining.

Range. Mexico to Argentina.

Biology. This species makes large external carton nests. I have observed four nests, three in Costa Rica and one in Panama, and all have been in Cecropia  trees ( C. peltata  , C. obtusifolia  , and C. longipes  ). Benson (1985) also observed A. schimperi  HNS  in Cecropia  trees. However Forel (1908b), describing the queen and male from a collection from Bahia, Brazil, explicitly stated that the carton nest was perched on the branches of a tree that was not Cecropia  .

The three nests I have seen in Costa Rica were all at the edges of roads in highly human altered landscapes (pasture edges, coffee farms) in seasonally dry areas. The globular carton nests are very conspicuous on the highly visible branches of Cecropia  trees, and in my studies of Cecropia  in Costa Rica I always looked for them. Yet I have only seen these three over many years of work in Costa Rica. I have never been able to examine a nest closely, but I have been able to observe the base of the trees in which they occurred. In one case workers were foraging not only on the base of the tree but also on surrounding low vegetation. In another case, on a tree with stump sprouts at the base, workers were swarming over the sprouts but not actually entering the internodes. These observations contrast with typical Cecropia  ants, which never forage off the host plant and usually enter and occupy any sprouts at the base of the tree. Thus A. schimperi  HNS  seems to occupy Cecropia  trees more "lightly" than the dominant obligate Cecropia  ants.

As suggested in the introduction to the species group, A. schimperi  HNS  could be a temporary social parasite of Cecropia  ants, usurping an existing Azteca  HNS  colony as a means of establishing its own. Such a scenario might explain the somewhat less specialized use of Cecropia  by A. schimperi  HNS  ; it may be a specialist on Cecropia  ants rather than Cecropia  trees.

Comments. Azteca schimperi  HNS  has a very broad range, vying with A. alfari  HNS  for the Azteca  HNS  species with the largest range. It is a relatively distinctive species with little discernable variation over the range; specimens from Argentina and Paraguay look very like specimens from Central America and Mexico.

Additional material examined. BELIZE: Manatee (J. D. Johnson) - workers  ; BRAZIL: Amazonas: Manaus , 3°07'S, 60°02'W, 14 Apr 1982 ( INPA) - alate queen, male, workerGoogleMaps  ; same data (Bequaert) - worker [ LACM]GoogleMaps  ; Bahia: " Bahia " - worker, male [ MCSN, MHNG]  ; Federal District: Brasilia , 15°47'S, 47°55'W (H. C. Morais) - workerGoogleMaps  ; COLOMBIA: Magdalena: El Campano , 11°07'N, 74°06'W, 1300m , 13 Aug 1985 (J. Longino, P. S. Ward) - alate queens [ UCDC]GoogleMaps  ; COSTA RICA: Alajuela: 3km S Naranjo , 10°04'N, 84°23'W, 1000m , 12 Jul 1991 (J. Longino) - workersGoogleMaps  ; Guanacaste: PanAm Hwy, 5km S La Cruz , 11°02'N, 85°38'W, 200m , 11 Jul 1991 (J. Longino) - workersGoogleMaps  ; same locality, 17 Jan 1991 (F. Joyce) - workersGoogleMaps  ; Puntarenas: Guaria, rd to Monteverde , 10°14'N, 84°51'W, 700m , 23 Jun 1992 (J. Longino) - workersGoogleMaps  ; GUATEMALA: Patulul   GoogleMaps, 2 Jan 1912 (W. M. Wheeler) - worker  ; Escuintla: Escuintla [14°18'N, 90°47'W], 28- 30 Dec 1911 (W. M. Wheeler) - workersGoogleMaps  ; GUYANA: no specific locality - workers [ MHNG]  ; PANAMA: Canal Zone: Barro Colorado Island , 9°09'N, 79°51'W, 100m , 3 Jul 1997 (J. Longino) - workersGoogleMaps  ; PARAGUAY: Parana R. (Fiebrig) - workers, queens [ LACM]  .


Italy, Genova, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale "Giacomo Doria"


USA, Massachusetts, Cambridge, Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology


Switzerland, Geneva, Museum d'Histoire Naturelle


Switzerland, Basel, Naturhistorisches Museum


Germany, Berlin, Museum fuer Naturkunde der Humboldt-Universitaet


Brazil, Amazonas, Manaus, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazoonia, Colecao Sistematica da Entomologia


USA, California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History


USA, California, Davis, University of California, R.M. Bohart Museum of Entomology