The phylogenetic relationships between the genera of ants considered until now as ectatommines are investigated using cladistic methods. They are found polyphyletic and a new arrangement is proposed. Paraponerini is reinstated for Paraponera; Proceratiini is reinstated for Proceratium and Discothyrea. The tribe Ectatommini is reduced to the following genera: Ectatomma, Rhytidoponera, Gnamptogenys, Heteroponera and Acanthoponera. Aulacoponeis placed in an informal genus group. Most fossils though to be ectatommines can not be reliably determined as such and probably belong to other formicid groups. Palaeogeography coupled with the present distribution of the taxa supports an origin of Ectatommini sometime about the early Oligocene.