Leafcutter ant

Atta cephalotes

Fascinating Facts

  • Like most ants, they have a complex social structure with many castes and subgroups. Each individual performs a specific function for the colony, from soldier to fungus watcher to leaf cutter.
  • Leafcutter ants use their massive mandibles (jaw pieces) to cut big sections of leaves that they use when “farming” fungi in their underground chambers.
  • The ants and their fungus are obligatory mutualists – neither can live without the other.


These ants live in huge underground nests connected by tunnels. These tunnels are where the ants grow their primary food source– fungus. The leaves that they cut are used like mulch to cultivate the fungus growth.

Status in the Wild

Not yet assessed by IUCN


Leafcutter ants are thought to be one of the most numerically dominant invertebrates in Central and South America with each colony housing millions of individuals.

Location in the Zoo

Invertebrates Zone of the Sculpture Learning Plaza

Animals & Exhibits