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Nothomyrmecia macrops casent0172002 profile 1.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmeciinae
Tribe: Prionomyrmecini
Genus: Nothomyrmecia
Species: N. macrops
Binomial name
Nothomyrmecia macrops
Clark, 1951

Nothomyrmecia macrops, sometimes called the dinosaur ant or dawn ant,[2] is the only extant species of its genus. Its morphological similarity with the Baltic Eocene fossil ant genus Prionomyrmex has resulted in the species often being considered a living fossil and stimulated several studies on its morphology, behavior, ecology, and chromosomes.


It is found in the cool regions of the mallee of southern South Australia and Western Australia in old-growth areas populated with various Eucalyptus species.[3] These ants were of special interest to entomologists since their similarity with the Eocene Baltic fossil Prionomyrmex was thought to offer a chance to observe and study "primitive" ant social organization. However, N. macrops is known to possess some behavioural habits of more advanced ant species, and morphological[4] and molecular[5] phylogenies of the ants indicate that other ant lineages such as Ponerinae are more properly considered "primitive" within the family.


Nothomyrmecia was originally discovered in 1931 near Balladonia in Western Australia. At the time it was thought to be living proof that ants had evolved from wasps. However the amateur naturalists who discovered the species had failed to record collection sites, so no other specimens could be found in the area. In 1977 a solitary worker ant from the species was found by Dr. Bob Taylor and his party of entomologists from Canberra at Poochera, 1300 km (800 mi) from the site of the 1931 discovery. A further colony was found at Penong, 180 km (110 mi) to the west of Poochera, but the fate of the colony discovered in 1931 is not known.[6]


Nothomyrmecia was described in 1934 by Clark [7] as a new genus of Myrmeciinae, though with some hesitation due to its apparent similarity with the Eocene Baltic amber fossil Prionomyrmex unknown to him and of which remained only literature descriptions and figures. In 1951 Clark [8] proposed a new ant subfamily for his Nothomyrmecia, based on morphological differences with the other Myrmeciinae. Clark’s placement of Nothomyrmecia in isolated position within the ants was confirmed by Taylor’s rediscovery of this species in 1977 [9] and was universally accepted by the scientific community until 2003. In 1998, Baroni Urbani described a new Baltic fossil Prionomyrmex species. After examining specimens of N. macrops, Baroni Urbani stated that his new species and N. macrops belonged to the same genus, in which case the name Prionomyrmex would replace the name Nothomyrmecia and the subfamily Nothomyrmeciinae must be called Prionomyrmeciinae.[10] Dlussky & Perfilieva in 2003 [11] separated again Nothomyrmecia from Prionomyrmex on the base of the fusion of an abdominal segment. In the same year Ward & Brady,[12] using a different, broader set of characters, reached the same conclusion as Dlussky and Perfileeva [11] and, in addition, transferred both Nothomyrmecia and Prionomyrmex as distinct genera in the older subfamily Myrmeciinae. Later on, Dlussky [13] also refers only to Ward & Brady’s classification.[12] However, Baroni Urbani (2005, 2008),[14][15] suggested additional evidence in favor of his former interpretation as opposed to that of Ward and Brady’s[12] arguments. This view, however has not been used in subsequent relevant papers, which continue to use the classification of Ward and Brady, rejecting that of Baroni Urbani.[5][16][17][13]


  1. ^ Social Insects Specialist Group (1996). "Nothomyrmecia macrops". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Edward O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler. "The rise of the ants: phylogenetic and ecological explanation". PNAS. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Threatened Species Scientific Committee. "Dinosaur Ant, Fossil Ant (Nothomyrmecia macrops)". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  4. ^ C. Baroni Urbani, B. Bolton & P. S. Ward (1992). "The internal phylogeny of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)". Systematic Entomology 17: 301–329. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3113.1992.tb00553.x. 
  5. ^ a b Philip S. Ward (2007). "Phylogeny, classification, and species-level taxonomy of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)". Zootaxa 1668: 549–563. 
  6. ^ Poochera travel guide from Nullarbor Net, accessed 22 April 2007
  7. ^ J. Clark (1934). "Notes on Australian ants, with descriptions of new species and a new genus". Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria 8: 5–20. 
  8. ^ J. Clark (1951). "The Formicidae of Australia. 1. Subfamily Mrmeciinae". CSIRO, Melbourne: 230 p. 
  9. ^ J. Taylor (1977). "Nothomyrmecia macrops: a living-fossil ant rediscovered". Science 201 (4360): 979–285. doi:10.1126/science.201.4360.979. 
  10. ^ C. Baroni Urbani (2000). "Rediscovery of the Baltic amber ant genus Prionomyrmex (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) and its taxonomic consequences". Eclogae Geologicae Helvetiae 93: 471–480. 
  11. ^ a b G. M. Dlussky & K. S. Perfilieva (2003). "Paleogene ants of the genus Archimyrmex Cockerell, 1923 (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Myrmeciinae)". Paleontological Journal 37: 39–47. 
  12. ^ a b c P. S. Ward & S. G. Brady (2003). "Phylogeny and biogeography of the ant subfamily Myrmeciinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)". Invertebrate Systematics 17: 361–386. doi:10.1071/IS02046. 
  13. ^ a b G. M. Dlussky (2012). "New fossil ants of the subfamily Myrmeciinae (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) from Germany". Paleontological Journal 46: 288–292. doi:10.1134/s0031030111050054. 
  14. ^ C. Baroni Urbani (2005). "Phylogeny and biogeography of the ant subfamily Prionomyrmecinae (Hymenoptera, Formicidae". Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale Giacomo Doria 96: 581–595. 
  15. ^ C. Baroni Urbani (2008). "Orthotaxonomy and parataxonomy of true and presumed bulldog ants". Doriana. 8 (358): 1–10. 
  16. ^ E. O. Wilson & B. Hölldobler (2005). "The rise of the ants: A phylogenetic and ecological explanation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102: 7411–7414. doi:10.1073/pnas.0502264102. PMC 1140440. PMID 15899976. 
  17. ^ C. S. Moreau, C. D. Bell & R. Vila (2006). "Phylogeny of the ants: diversification in the age of angiosperms". Science 312: 101–104. doi:10.1126/science.1124891. 

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