Social Life in Arid Environments: The Case Study of Cataglyphis Ants

Annu Rev Entomol. 2017 Jan 31:62:305-321. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-031616-034941. Epub 2016 Nov 17.


Unlike most desert-dwelling animals, Cataglyphis ants do not attempt to escape the heat; rather, they apply their impressive heat tolerance to avoid competitors and predators. This thermally defined niche has promoted a range of adaptations both at the individual and colony levels. We have also recently discovered that within the genus Cataglyphis there are incredibly diverse social systems, modes of reproduction, and dispersal, prompting the tantalizing question of whether social diversity may also be a consequence of the harsh environment within which we find these charismatic ants. Here we review recent advances regarding the physiological, behavioral, life-history, colony, and ecological characteristics of Cataglyphis and consider perspectives on future research that will build our understanding of organic adaptive responses to desertification.

Keywords: chemical communication; desert-dwelling animals; dispersal; navigation; social system; temperature resistance.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Desert Climate*
  • Social Behavior
  • Thermotolerance