last updated 5.Nov.2005
Nothomyrmecia (Dinosaur Ants)
These beautiful honey-colored insects, endemic to old-growth mallee scrub in southern Australia, have long been regarded as "living fossils." The single species N. macrops is the only living representative of an ancient lineage (the Prionomyrmecini) that occurred worldwide in the Cretaceous. Although a few other extant lineages such as Amblyopone are actually older than the dinosaur ants, Nothomyrmecia holds a special place in myrmecological history for the fortuitous story of its rediscovery.
Nothomyrmecia ants are only rarely seen, not because they are uncommon, but because they only forage on cold nights during some parts of the year and because they are restricted to a particular type of mallee habitat. Colonies are small, with a simple social structure, and the ants forage singly usuing visual cues. It is possible that the cold-weather ecological niche and the relictual distribution of N. macrops have allowed it to escape competition with the more modern ant lineages that may have driven the extinction of other Prionomyrmecini.