The Ants of Africa
Genus Brachyponera
  Brachyponera sennaarensis (Mayr)

Brachyponera sennaarensis (Mayr)

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{link to the Hymenoptera Name Server} Type location Sudan (Ponera sennaarensis, Mayr, 1862: 721, worker; Santschi, 1910c: 350, queen reported but not described; Forel, 1910c: 245, male reported but not described; Pachycondyla sennaarensis in André, 1890: 317; also in Collingwood, 1985: 241; genus revived by Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 77) collected at Sennar
junior synonym sorghi (Ponera sorghi nov. sp., Roger, 1863a: 169, worker) from Sudan
all forms known (see Bolton, 1995, who had it in Pachycondyla Brown, new combination) .

{Pachycondyla sennaarensis}Mayr's (1862) description is at {original description}. Roger's (1863a) description of sorghi is at {original description}. Arnold (1915: 72) gave a translation, this is at {original description} and, male & queen, {original description}.

With fresh specimens, I have separated off the much lighter coloured and more slender forms as Brachyponera decolor (Santschi) AND the dark form with an even profile to the promesonotum, plus a series of moderate teeth on the inner mandible, as Brachyponera ruginota (Stitz).

With fresh specimens from Mali, collected by David M King, I have added a linked page to show associated workers, a queen and a male - The sexual stages. A separation point from the queen of P. ruginota appears to be the shape of the eye which is ovoid in what I separate as  sennaarensis and circular in ruginota, the eye of the latter also has an impressed border whereas that of sennaarensis simply arises from the surrounding area of the head.

Specimens from Iran, collected by Omid Paknia, workers and a queen are on the linked page Specimens from Iran.

See also Specimens from Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Schmidt & Shattuck (2014: 9) cite Déjean & Lachaud (1994) as evidence for polymorphic workers in sennaarensis. Although the many specimens (see my museum links) I have examined show some slight size variation between locations, I have not seen any polymorphism from a single collection.

Pachycondyla sennaarensisThe photomontage of a syntype worker is collated from Specimen probably faded by age, as Mayr gave the original colour as predominantly black.

Brachyponera sorghiThe photomontage of the sorghi type worker is collated from

{Pachycondyla sennaarensis}Nigeria specimens (as Brachyponera sennaarensis, Taylor, 1976: 19). WORKER. TL 5.26 mm, HL 1.24, HW 1.40, SL 1.09, PW 0.93 (in my guide ).
Overall colour black, deep red-brown on appendages. Extremely finely and densely punctate everywhere. Eyes quite large, maximum diameter greater than the maximum width of the antennal scape. Mandibles with a distinct oval pit or fovea on the dorsolateral surface. Promesonotal suture distinct and metanotal groove deeply impressed. Propodeum narrower in dorsal view than the pronotum. Petiole a thick scale. Gaster weakly impressed between first and second segments. Workers from colonies show variations in size, from poor nutrition areas TL 6-7 mm, and from high nutrition areas TL ca 8 mm (Dejean & Lachaud, 1994).

Wheeler (1922), listing it as Euponera (Brachyponera) sennaarensis had many African records, from West Africa were Senegal (Dakar, C. Alluaud; Thiès, F. Silvestri), Guinea (Conakry, Kindia, Kakoulima, F. Silvestri), Sierra Leone (Samlia Falls, Mocquerys), Ghana (Kitta and Accra, no collectors given), Nigeria (Ibadan, Olokemeji, F. Silvestri) and Cameroun (Metit, Mbalmo to Ekeneli, G. Schwab). Mayr (1879: 18) noted it as from Sennaar and Abyssinia.

Essentially a savannah species which penetrates adjoining forest zone areas. Nests directly into insolated soil, and forages on the soil surface. Arguably a granivorous species, see below.

Collingwood (1985, illustrated), reporting it from Saudi Arabia, described it as a robust, dark coloured species. His illustration matches mine. He added that it is an agressive species, distributed throughout the African tropics, with Arabia probably its northern limit. It "feeds mainly on dead insects but is also attracted to sugary sunstances and food waste". It was studied in some detail by Lévieux and Diomande, at Ferkéssédougou, Ivory Coast (Lévieux and Diomande, 1978). They described it as probably the most common ant in the Sudan savannah regions being found from Senegal right across sub-Saharan Africa to Somalia, and right up to the southern edge of the Sahara Desert at Tillabery in Niger, north of Niamey and alongside the Niger River. To the south they described its range as being brutally halted by the massif of the ebony forest. Its success was attributed to its granivorous diet. The nest opens on to the surface with a circular apertures, each 3-5 mm in diameter, around which is piled debris from the diet and nest excavations. Foraging openings some 2-3 mm in diameter, and perhaps 10 per m², permit access from underground galleries over a total area of up to 600 m².

Dejean & Lachaud (1994), who studied the species in Zaïre, described it as unique among ponerines in being partially seed-eating, this being an adaptation to the dry areas which constitute its main habitat. In the wet season, and in wetter habitats, animal prey are the principal diet. In woodland areas, interestingly, the workers are noticeably smaller than those of savannah colonies. On balance they describe it as having a typically omnivorous diet, using every available food source, including fruit and higher animal remains where available, such as in the vicinity of human habitations. They listed earthworms, coleopteran larvae, lepidopteran larvae, termites and ants as the main prey.

Specimens deposited in the Oxford University Natural History Museum

{Pachycondyla sennaarensis}The photomontage is of a worker from Sudan, collected at Alrhad, by Awatif Omer, 2005-6, Sudan 02. This seems likely to be of the type form.

{Pachycondyla sennaarensis}The photomontage is of a worker from Mali, Bamako; collector David King (King 40)

© 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018 - Brian Taylor CBiol FRSB FRES
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