Two New Door Head Ant Species Discovered in Africa

Posted on October 5, 2015

Carebara lilith door head ant

Two new species of door head ants have been discovered in Africa. The ants have shield-shaped heads that they use to block the entrance of their nests and keep out intruders.

The ants were discovered in sifted leaf-litter collected in rainforests in Kenya and the Ivory Coast. The ants belong to the genus Carebara. The species have been named Carebara lilith (pictured above) and Carebara phragmatica (pictured below). The "lilith" name comes from a female demon in Jewish mythology and the second species name was derived from phragmosis in relation to the function of its uniquely shaped head.

The researchers say the door head ant individuals are a special worker subcaste. The shape of their heads allows them to fit perfectly into the entrance of the nest. Their heads are covered by a layer of debris such as soil or organic material enabling them to blend in with their surroundings and conceal the nest entrance.

The new ants were discovered by an international research team, led by Dr. Georg Fischer and Prof. Evan Economo, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Japan. A research paper on the new ant species can be found here in the journal, ZooKeys.

Carebara phragmotica door head ant

Photos: Dr. Georg Fischer