Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Attracted to Rabbit Carcasses in Three Different Habitats

Ashraf Mashaly, Mostafa R. Sharaf, Medghom al-Subeai, Fahd Al-Mekhlafi, Abdulrahman Aldawood, Gail Anderson


This study reports the ant species that were attracted to rabbit carcasses in three different habitats (agricultural, desert, urban) in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from May to July 2014. Rabbit carcasses were used as a model for decomposition. Carcasses were categorized as exposed, clothed, shaded and burnt. A total of 726 ants belonging to three subfamilies and 14 species were collected during the decomposition process. Trichomyrmex mayri (Forel) was the only ant species attracted to the carcasses placed in the desert site. At the agricultural site, there was one ponerine species, five formicine species, and three myrmicine species were attracted, while at the urban site, five formicine species and one myrmicine species were recorded. The agricultural site attracted the highest number of ants. In contrast, the desert site attracted the lowest number of ants. Tr. mayri was the most prevalent species occurring in both the agricultural and desert sites. The bloated stage of decomposition attracted the highest number of ants followed by the decay, fresh and dry stages, respectively. Clothed carcasses attracted the highest number of ants followed by the exposed and burnt carcasses, respectively. The shaded carcasses attracted the fewest number of ants. This study found that ants are attracted to carcasses at all stages of decomposition and are common components of the necrofauna of central Saudi Arabia.


Ants, decomposition, forensic entomology, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Full Text:



Abou Zied, E.M. (2014). Insect Colonization and Succession on Rabbit Carcasses in southwestern Mountains of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Journal of Medical Entomology 51(6): 1168 - 1174.

Al-Mesbah, H.C., Moffatt, O.M.E., El-Azazy, C. & Majeedd, Q.A.H. (2012). The decomposition of rabbit carcasses and associated necrophagous Diptera in Kuwait. Forensic Science International 217: 27 - 31.

Anderson, G.S. (2009). Factors that influence insect succession on carrion. In: Byrd JH, Castner JL (eds.) Forensic entomology: The utility of arthropods in legal investigations. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, pp. 201 - 250.

Beckerdite, H., Hundl, C., Ingle, E., McStravick, K., Turman, L. (2014). The effect of burning on cadaver decomposition and insect succession. Instars: A Journal of Student Research. 1: 149-151.

Bolton, B. (1994). Identification Guide to the Ant Genera of the World; Harvard University Press: Cambridge.

Byrd, J.H. & Castner, J.L. (2001). Forensic Entomology. The utility of arthropods in legal investigations. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida.

Campobasso, C.P., Di Vella, G. & Introna, F. (2001). Factors affecting decomposition and Diptera colonization, Forensic Science International 120:18–27.

Campobasso, C.P., Di Vella, G. & Introna, F. (2001). Factors affecting decomposition and Diptera colonization. Forensic Science International 120: 18 - 27.

Campobasso, C.P., Marchetti, D. & Introna, F. (2004). Postmortem artifacts made by ants and the effect of ant activity on decompositional rate. European Association for Forensic Entomology. Second Meeting. United Kingdom.

Campobasso, C.P., Marchetti, D., Introna, F. & Colonna, M.F. (2009). Postmortem artifacts made by ants and the effect of ant activity on decompositional rates. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 30: 84 - 87.

Card, A., Cross, P., Moffatt, C. & Simmons, T. (2015). The Effect of Clothing on the Rate of Decomposition and Diptera Colonization on Sus scrofa Carcasses. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 60(4): 979 - 82.

Castro, C.P., Sousa, J.P., Arnaldos, M.I., Gaspar, J. & Garcia, M.D. (2011). Blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) activity in sun exposed and shaded carrion in Portugal. Annales- Societe Entomologique de France 47(1–2): 128 - 139.

Catts, E.P., N.H. Haskell, 1990. Entomology and death: a procedural guide, Joyce's Print Shop, Inc.: Clemson.

Chen, C.D., Nazni, W.A., Lee, H.L., Hashim, R., Abdullah, N.A., Ramli, R., Lau, K.W., Heo, C.C., Goh, T.G., Izzul, A.A. & Sofian-Azirun, M. (2014). A preliminary report on ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) recovered from forensic entomological studies conducted in different ecological habitats in Malaysia. Tropical Biomedicine 31(2): 381 – 386.

Collingwood, C.A. (1985). Hymenoptera: Fam. Formicidae of Saudi Arabia. Fauna of Saudi Arabia 7: 230 - 301.

Collingwood, C.A. & Agosti, D. (1996). Formicidae (Insecta: Hymenoptera) of Saudi Arabia (part 2). Fauna of Saudi Arabia 15: 300 - 385.

Dejean, A. (1988). Prey capture by Camponotus maculatus (Formicidae: Formicinae). Biol. Behav. 13: 97-115.

Gennard, D.F. (2007). Forensic entomology: An introduction, 2nd Ed. John Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ.

Glassman, D. & Crow, R. (1996). Standardization Model for Describing the Extent of Burn Injury to Human Remains. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 41: 152-154.

Goddard, J. & Lago, P.K. (1985). Notes on blowfly (Diptera: Calliphoridae) succession on carrion in Northern Mississippi. Journal of Entomological Sciences, 20: 312 - 317.

Gruenthal, A., Moffatt, C. & Simmons, T. (2012). “Differential Decomposition Patterns in Charred Versus Un-Charred Remains”. Journal of Forensic Sciences 57(1): 12 - 18.

Gunn, A. (2006). Essential Forensic Biology. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. England.

Heo, C.C., Marwi, M.A., Salleh, A.F.M., Jeffery, J., Kurahashi, H. & Omar, A. (2008). Study of insect succession and rate of decomposition on a partially burned pig carcass in an oil palm plantation in Malaysia. Tropical Biomedicine 25: 202 - 208.

Heo, C.C., Marwi, M.A., Hashim, R. Abdullah, N.A., Dhang, C.C., Jeffery, J., Kurahashi, H. & Omar, B. (2009). Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) associated with pig carcasses in Malaysia. Tropical Biomedicine 26(1): 106 – 109.

Hölldobler, B. &Wilson, E.O. (1990). The Ants. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.

Joy, J.E., Liette, N.L. & Harrah, H.L. (2006). Carrion fly (Diptera: Calliphoridae) larval colonization of sunlit and shaded pig carcasses in West Virginia, USA. Forensic Science International 164: 183 - 192.

Keller, L. & Gordon, E. (2009). The Lives of Ants. Oxford University press. Inc., New York.

Kelly, J.A., Linde, T.C.V.D. & Anderson, G.S. (2009). The influence of clothing and wrapping on carcass decomposition and arthropod succession during the warmer seasons in Central South Africa, Journal of Forensic Sciences 54:1105–1112.

Kolver, J.H. (2009). Forensic Entomology: The influence of the burning of a body on insect succession and calculation of the postmortem interval. PhD thesis, University of the Free State.

Lindgren, N.K., Bucheli, S.R., Archambeault, A.D. & Bytheway, J.A. (2011). Exclusion of forensically important flies due to burying behavior by the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) in southeast Texas. Forensic Science International 204(1-3): e1 - e3.

Luederwaldt, H. (1926). Observações biologicas sobre formigas brasileiras especialmente do estado de São Paulo. Revista do Museu Paulista 14: 185 – 303.

Mann, R., Bass, W. & Meadows, L. (1990). Time since death and decomposition of the human body: variables and observations in case and experimental field studies, Journal of Forensic Sciences 35: 103–111.

Mashaly, A.M.A. (2016). Entomofaunal succession patterns on burnt and unburnt rabbit carrion. Journal of Medical Entomology 53(2): 296 – 303.

Mashaly, A.M.A., Al-Mekhalfi, F.A. & Al-qahtani, A.M. (2013). Food Preferences and Foraging Activity of Field Populations of a Samsum Ant, Pachycondyla sennaarensis. Bulletin of Insectology 62(2): 187 - 193.

Matuszewski, S., Frątczak, K., Konwerski, S., Bajerlein, D., Szpila, K., Jarmusz, M., Szafałowicz, M., Grzywacz, A. & Mądra, A. (2016). Effect of body mass and clothing on carrion entomofauna. International Journal of Legal Medicine 130(1): 221 - 32.

Matuszewski, S., Konwerski, S., Frątczak, K. & Szafałowicz, M. (2014). Effect of body mass and clothing on decomposition of pig carcasses. International Journal of Legal Medicine 128(6): 1039 – 1048.

Moretti, T.C., Giannotti, E., Thyssen, P.J., Solis, D.R. & Godoy, W.A.C. (2011). Bait and habitat preferences, and temporal variability of social wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) attracted to vertebrate carrion. Journal of Medical Entomology 48: 1069 - 1075.

Moretti, T.C. & Ribeiro, O.B. (2006). Cephalotes clypeatus Fabricius (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): nesting habits and occurrence in animal carcass. Neotropical Entomology 35: 412 - 415.

Morrison, L.W. (1998). The spatiotemporal dynamics of insular ant metapopulations. Ecology. 79(4): 1135–1146.

Nazni, W.A., Lee, H.L., Chen, C.D., Heo, C.C., Abdullah, A.G., Wan-Norjuliana, W.M., Chew, W.K., Jeffery, J., Rosli, H. & Sofian-Azirun, M. (2011). Comparative insect fauna succession on indoor and outdoor monkey car¬rions in a semi-forested area in Malaysia. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine 1(2): S232 – S238.

Payne, J. (1965). A summer carrion study of the baby pig Sus scrofa Linnaeus. Ecology 46: 592 - 602.

Peck, S.L., McQuaid, B. & Campbell, C.L. (1998). Using ant species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) as a biological indicators of agroecosystem condition. Environmental Entomology. 27(5): 1102–1110.

Sanders, C.J. & Pang, A. (1992). Carpenter ants as predators of spruce budworm in the boreal forest of northwestern Ontario. Canadian Entomology 124: 1093 - 1100.

Shaalan, E.A., El-Moaty, Z.A., Abdelsalam, S. & Anderson, G.S. (2017). A Preliminary Study of Insect Succession in Al-Ahsaa Oasis, in the Eastern Region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Journal of Forensic Sciences 62(1): 239-243.

Sharaf, M.R., Salman, S., Al-Dhafer, H.M., Akbar, S.A., Abdel-Dayem, M.S. & Aldawood, A.S. (2016). Taxonomy and distribution of the genus Trichomyrmex Mayr, 1865 (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Arabian Peninsula, with the description of two new species. European Journal of Taxonomy 246: 1 - 36.

Sharanowski, B.J., Walker, E.G. & Anderson, G.S. (2008). Insect succession and decomposition patterns on shaded and sunlit carrion in Saskatchewan in three different seasons. Forensic Science International 179: 219 – 240.

Shean, B.S., Messinger, L. & Papworth, M. (1993). Observations of differential decomposition on sun exposed v. shaded pig carrion in coastal Washington-State. Journal of Forensic Sciences 38: 938-949.

Shi, N.N., Tsai, C.C., Camino, F., Bernard, G.D., Yu, B.N. & Wehner, R. (2015). Keeping cool: Enhanced optical reflection and radiative heat dissipation in Saharan silver ants. Science 349: 298 – 301

Silahuddin, S.A., Latif, B., Kurahashi, H. & Heo, C.C. (2015). "The importance of habitat in the ecology of decomposition on rabbit carcasses in Malaysia: Implications in forensic entomology." Journal Medical Entomology 52: 9-23.

Sleigh, C. (2003). Ant. Animal, Series editor: Jonathan Burt. Rreaktion books ltd.UK.

Smith, K.G.V. (1986). Manual of Forensic Entomology. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Tabor, K.L., Fell, R.D. & Brewster, C.C. (2005). Insect fauna visiting carrion in Southwest Virginia. Forensic Science International 150: 73 - 80.

Tantawi, T.I., El-Kady, E.M., Greenberg, B., El-Ghaffar, H.A. & et al. (1996). "Arthropod succession of exposed rabbit carrion in Alexandria, Egypt." Journal of Medical Entomology 33(4): 566-580.

Taylor, B. (2007). The Ants of (sub-Saharan) Africa. Available at:

Voss, S.C., Cook, D.F. & Dadour, I.R. (2011). Decomposition and insect succession of clothed and unclothed carcasses in Western Australia. Forensic Science International 211(1–3): 67 –7 5.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

JCR Impact Factor 2016: 0.699