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Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Population estimates

  • No global estimates; considered “ubiquitous” (Hölldobler and Wilson 1990)
  • Occur at low densities in undisturbed forest (Wirth et al. 2007)
  • Well adapted to live in forest gaps, often created where intact forests degraded for agriculture and farming (Hölldobler and Wilson 1990)
  • Far more abundant along forest edges, where Neotropical forests have become fragmented (Wirth et al. 2007; Meyer et al. 2009; Corrêa et al. 2010; Dohm et al. 2011; Varón et al. 2011)
    • Common in human-modified habitats (e.g., altered due to agriculture and livestock grazing)
    • In Brazil, Meyer et al. (2009) found densities of A. cephalotes to be 11x higher at the forest edge than the forest interior

Population structure

  • South American populations isolated from those in Central America and Western Colombia (Muñoz-Valencia et al. 2022)
    • Separated by northern Andes mountains
    • Also see Solomon (2007) and Barrera et al. (2022), who found evidence for northern and southern subclades of A. cephalotes
  • Populations also influenced by human movements and management practices (e.g., attempted eradication using chemicals) (Weber 1969; Muñoz-Valencia et al. 2022)

Conservation Status


  • Not listed (IUCN 2022)


  • Not listed (UNEP 2022)

No Conservation Concern

Leafcutter ant carries leaf fragment

Atta cephalotes is considered abundant and widespread within its range.

A. cephalotes adapts very well to forest-gap habitats, particularly where humans cut intact forest for agriculture, livestock pastures, roads, and development.

This species occurs at much lower densities in undisturbed forest.

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