Richter, A., Keller, R.A., Rosumek, F.B., Economo, E.P., Garcia, F.H. & Beutel. R.G. (2019) The cephalic anatomy of workers of the ant species Wasmannia affinis (Formicidae, Hymenoptera, Insecta) and its evolutionary implications.Arthropod Structure & Development, 49, 26-49. DOI:10.1016/j.asd.2019.02.002 (IF2019 1,836; Q1 Entomology)
Despite the ecological significance of ants and the intensive research attention they have received, thorough treatments of the anatomy and functional morphology are still scarce. In this study we document the head morphology of workers of the myrmicine Wasmannia affinis with optical microscopy, μ-computed tomography, scanning electron microscopy, and 3D reconstruction, providing the first complete anatomical treatment of an ant head with a broad array of modern techniques. We discuss the potential of the applied methods to generate detailed and well-documented morphological data sets with increased efficiency. We also address homology problems, particularly in the context of the cephalic digestive tract. According to our analyses the "pharynx" of previous ant studies is homologous to the prepharynx of other insects. We also discuss the phylogenetic potential and functional significance of the observed characters, with internal features such as tentorium and musculature discussed for the first time. Our investigation underlines that detailed anatomical data for Formicidae are still very fragmentary, which in turn limits our understanding of the major design elements underlying the ant bauplan. We attempt to provide a template for further anatomical studies, which will help to understand the evolution of this fascinating group on the phenotypic level.