From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Pogonomyrmex barbatus.jpg
P. barbatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Myrmicini
Genus: Pogonomyrmex
Mayr, 1868

see text

c. 67 species

Pogonomyrmex is a genus of harvester ants, occurring primarily in the deserts of North and South America. The genus name originated from the Greek language and refers to a beard-like structure, the psammophore, below the head (Greek πώγων/pōgōn, "beard" + μύρμηξ/murmēx, "ant"), which can be found in most species of the subgenus sensu stricto. The psammophore is used for gathering small seeds, helping to increase the efficiency of transportation of fine sand and pebbles during nest construction, or to carry eggs. However, this structure is missing in species of the subgenus Ephebomyrmex (Greek ἔφηβος/ephēbos, "beardless lad"), and these species generally have smaller individuals and colonies.

Pogonomyrmex (sensu stricto) workers have the most toxic venom documented in any insects, with Pogonomyrmex maricopa being the most toxic tested thus far.[1] It has an LD50 of only 0.12 mg/kg, compared to western honey bee venom, at 2.8 mg/kg, and comparable to cobra venom. The venom is presumed to be an antivertebrate defense, specifically against predators that have evolved to selectively feed on them such as horned lizards. Very few insects have had the toxicity of their venoms formally tested, and other insects likely have more potent venoms.

These ants dig very deep nests with many underground chambers in which they keep seeds, from which they derive food for their larvae. The areas around most Pogonomyrmex (sensu stricto) nests tend to be utterly devoid of vegetation, and are easily seen from a distance. In addition to horned lizards, predatory wasps in the genus Clypeadon feed only on Pogonomyrmex workers, paralyzing them with their venom, and carrying them back to a burrow where they will serve as food for the wasp's larva.


As of 2013, there are about 67 species in the genus.[2]

Species include:



External links[edit]