Leafcutter ants, a non-generic name, are any of 47 species of leaf-chewing ants belonging to the two genera Atta and Acromyrmex. These species of tropical, fungus-growing ants are all endemic to South and Central America, Mexico, and parts of the southern United States. Leafcutter ants can carry twenty times their body weight and cut and process fresh vegetation (leaves, flowers, and grasses) to serve as the nutritional substrate for their fungal cultivars.
Acromyrmex and Atta ants have much in common anatomically; however, the two can be identified by their external differences. Atta ants have three pairs of spines and a smooth exoskeleton on the upper surface of the thorax, while Acromyrmex ants have four pairs and a rough exoskeleton.
Next to humans, leafcutter ants form the largest and most complex animal societies on Earth. In a few years, the central mound of their underground nests can grow to more than 30 m (98 ft) across, with smaller, radiating mounds extending out to a radius of 80 m (260 ft), taking up 30 to 600 m2 (320 to 6,460 sq ft) and containing eight million individuals.