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J Insect Sci. 2003;3:2. Epub 2003 Jan 10.

Allometry of workers of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta.

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Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4370, USA.


The relationship between worker body size and the shape of their body parts was explored in the polymorphic ant, Solenopsis invicta. The data consisted of 20 measurements of body parts as well as sums of some of these measurements. Size-free shape variables were created by taking the ratios of relevant measures. After log-transformation, these ratios were regressed against the logarithm of total body length, or against the log of the size of the parent part. Slopes of zero indicated that shape did not change with size, and non-zero slopes signaled a size-related change of shape. Across the range of worker sizes, the head length retained a constant proportion to body length, but relative headwidth increased such that head shape changed from a barrel-profile to a somewhat heart-shaped profile. Antennae became relatively smaller, with the club contributing more to this decline than the other parts. The alinotum became relatively shorter and higher (more humped), and the gaster increased in both relative width and length, and therefore in volume. All three pairs of legs were isometric to body length. The component parts of the legs, with one exception, were isometric to their own total leg length. The body of S. invicta is therefore dominated by mostly modest allometries, giving large workers a somewhat different shape than small ones. None of these size-shape relationships was different for different colonies. The functional meaning of these shape changes is unknown, but that does not stop us from speculating.

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