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Revision and Microtomography of the Pheidole knowlesi Group, an Endemic Ant Radiation in Fiji (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Myrmicinae)

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posted on 27.07.2016, 13:00 by Georg Fischer, Eli M. Sarnat, Evan P. Economo

The Fijian islands, a remote archipelago in the southwestern Pacific, are home to a number of spectacular endemic radiations of plants and animals. Unlike most Pacific archipelagos, these evolutionary radiations extend to social insects, including ants. One of the most dramatic examples of ant radiation in Fiji has occurred in the hyperdiverse genus Pheidole. Most of the 17 native Fijian Pheidole belong to one of two species groups that descended from a single colonization, yet have evolved dramatically contrasting morphologies: the spinescent P. roosevelti species group, and the more morphologically conservative P. knowlesi species group. Here we revise the knowlesi group, in light of recent phylogenetic results, and enhanced with modern methods of X-ray microtomography. We recognize six species belonging to this group, including two of which we describe as new: Pheidole caldwelli Mann, Pheidole kava sp. n., Pheidole knowlesi Mann, P. ululevu sp. n., P. vatu Mann, and P. wilsoni Mann. Detailed measurements and descriptions, identification keys, and high-resolution images for queens, major and minor workers are provided. In addition, we include highly detailed 3D surface reconstructions for all available castes.