Morphological evolution in ants has been traditionally thought as being strongly influenced by selection for colony ergonomic efficiency. Although many studies have focused on the evolution of social characteristics in ants, little is known about the evolution of worker morphology at a macroevolutionary scale. In this study, we investigate the tempo and mode of the evolution of worker morphology, focusing on changes in size and shape. Our datasets included a large sample of species from different ant genera, as well as variation within the hyperdiverse genus Pheidole, for a total of 1650 measurements. The rate of size evolution was at least five times faster than the rate of shape evolution. The fit of alternative models of morphological evolution indicated statistically significant phylogenetic signal in both size and shape and in all datasets. Finally, tests of rate heterogeneity in phenotypic evolution among lineages identified several shifts in rates of evolution in both datasets, although the timing of shifts in size and shape was usually not concordant.
- Lines of least resistance
- Morphological innovation