Worker size variation and the evolution of an ant-plant mutualism: Comparative morphometrics of workers of two closely related plant-ants, Petalomyrmex phylax and Aphomomyrmex afer (Formicinae)
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We compared intranidal variation in worker size in the two closely related plant-ants Aphomomyrmex afer and Petalomyrmex phylax. Each of these genera is monotypic, and the two appear to be sister species among extant ants. Workers of A. afer are larger on average and exhibit much greater intranidal size variation. Workers of P. phylax are smaller and much less variable in size. Both species show weak allometry for some pairs of characters. Head shape is also different in workers of the two species. We discuss these differences in relation to the ecology of A. afer and P. phylax, and propose a scenario for the evolutionary divergence of worker morphology in these two species. Based on comparisons of these two monotypic genera with related ants, we suggest that reduced intranidal variation in worker size is a derived trait in Petalomyrmex.
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