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Pheidole morrisi var. dentata MayrHNS 1886d: 457, raised to species level by Forel 1901j: 351. Syn.: Pheidole commutata MayrHNS 1886d: 459, synonymy by Creighton 1950a: 178; Pheidole dentata var. faisonicaHNS Forel 190lj: 352, synonymy by Creighton 1950a: 178; Leptothorax tennesseensis ColeHNS 1938a: 238, synonymized under commutataHNS by Cole 1948: 82.
TYPES Naturhist. Mus. Wien.
diagnosis A member of the fallaxHNS group similar in various characters to bergiHNS, chiapasanaHNS, cordicepsHNS, dioneHNS, humeridensHNS, industaHNS, laevivertexHNS, madrensisHNS, majaHNS, nitidulaHNS, and tetroidesHNS, and distinguished as follows.
Major: rugoreticulum of head placed next to antennal fossa in advance of eye level; carinulae of frontal lobes mostly limited to margins of the lobes and extending posteriorly to the level of the eyes only by an Eye Length; occipital margin in full-face view deeply concave; occipital corners smoothly rounded, almost semicircular; humerus and mesonotal convexity low and smooth, rounded in profde; apex of petiolar node in side view strongly tapered; postpetiole from above elliptical, with bluntly angular lateral margins; promesonotal dorsum completely smooth.
Minor: propodeal spines reduced almost to denticles; petiolar and postpetiolar nodes in side view very low; occipital margin in full-face view very feebly concave.
Measurements (mm) Major (Wakulla Springs State Park, Florida): HW 1.14, HL 1.26, SL 0.84, EL 0.22, PW 0.60. Minor (Wakulla Springs State Park): HW 0.58, HL 0.66, SL 0.74, EL 0.14, PW 0.38.
Color Coloration and size vary greatly, as described by Naves (1985) in Florida: "I have found colonies of small dark specimens in wooded areas around Gainesville and large specimens that nest in sandy soil on beaches in south Florida and the Florida Keys. I also found a yellowish variant that inhabits the marshlands of the Keys and another variant with quite large majors that vary in color from reddish to very dark brown nesting in open areas around Gainesville." Naves believes that all of the variation is of a single species. On the other hand, Stefan Cover has provided the following suggestive observations that may point toward multiple sibling species: "Variation similar to that reported by Naves in Florida is present throughout much of dentata's range. In many places in the southeastern United States, there are lighter colored open-ground forms and darker forest-inhabiting forms. In at least one case there are associated life-history differences. The typical dark, forest-inhabiting form common in the southeast produces monogynous colonies containing several hundred individuals. In Calvert Co., Maryland, at the northeastern extremity of its range, only a light colored open-ground form is present. It forms polygynous colonies often containing over 5,000 ants. This strongly suggests dentataHNS may be a sibling species cluster like the Aphaenogaster rudisHNS complex."
Range This very adaptable and abundant ant is known to occur from Calvert County, Maryland, south to the Florida Keys, west to Illinois, Kansas, El Paso and the Davis Mountains of Texas, thence south to northern Mexico (Monterrey, Nuevo Leon).
Biology In the southeastern United States, where I have observed the species (or complex of sibling species) over many years, colonies of dentataHNS occur in a wide range of habitats, from relatively thick coniferous and deciduous woodland to beaches and even city streets. They prefer to nest in rotting logs and stumps, but also readily occupy soil beneath pieces of rotting wood and in open ground. In Pensacola, Florida, I found them one of the commonest ants in and around concrete sidewalks. Similar versatility has been reported elsewhere in Florida by Naves (1985) and in western Texas by Moody and Francke (1982). I have found dentataHNS to be an easily collected and managed species for laboratory studies, having used colonies to demonstrate enemy specification in alarm-defense communication (Wilson 1975d, 1976a) and the fixed nature of major-minor ratios even in the face of intense predator pressure (Johnston and Wilson 1985). Laboratory colonies feed voraciously and thrive on insects and sugar, growing to maturity within a year or so. G. C. and J. Wheeler (1953b) have provided a description of the larvae of all castes and instars.
Figure Upper: major. Lower: minor. FLORIDA: Wakulla Springs State Park, Wakulla Co. (E. O. Wilson). Scale bars = 1 mm.
Found most commonly in these habitats: 0 times found in peripheral to cultivated cotton, 0 times found in in cultivated cotton, 64 times found in Black Belt Prairie, 30 times found in deciduous forest, 0 times found in rotting logs, 0 times found in deciduous woods, 1 times found in litter in hardwood forest, 29 times found in oak hickory forest in Black Belt Prairie, 25 times found in pine flatwoods, 2 times found in pine-oak dune woodland, ...
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 13 times leaf litter, 1 times sifted leaf litter, 1 times ex branch hanging from Astrocaryum, phe times Luer house, mangrove-lined bay edge, backed by hammock on shell mound. 1750, 1 times in sawgrass tussock, 1 times at bait, 1 times pitfall trap, 2 times ex sifted leaf litter, 2 times ex leaf litter, 2 times diurnal forager, 1 times under rock, ...
Collected most commonly using these methods: 108 times pitfall trap, 67 times Berlese funnel, 4 times malaise trap, 25 times direct collection, 11 times Winkler, 8 times peanut butter bait, 4 times bait, 1 times general collecting, 0 times yellow pan interception trap, 0 times at night, 10 times Berlese, ...
Elevations: collected from 1 - 2680 meters, 339 meters average
Type specimens: male: mem227522, mem227523, mem227524, mem227525, mem227526, mem227527, mem227528; queen: mem227783; syntype of Pheidole commutata: casent0901549, casent0901550; syntype of Pheidole dentata faisonica: casent0917765; syntype of Pheidole dentata faisonsica: casent0901475, casent0901476; syntype of Pheidole dentata faisonsica: casent0908218, casent0908219; type of Pheidole commutata: focol1552, focol1553; worker: mem226896, mem226897, mem226898, mem226899, mem227118, mem227119, mem227120, mem227121, mem227122, mem227123, mem227124, mem227125, mem227126, mem227127, mem227128, mem227129, mem227130, mem227131, mem227187, mem227219, mem227356, mem227454, mem227455, mem227456, mem227463, mem227464, mem227465, mem227466, mem227494, mem227495, mem227496, mem227497, mem227498, mem227504, mem227505, mem227506, mem227507, mem227508, mem227509, mem227510, mem227511, mem227512, mem227513, mem227514, mem227515, mem227516, mem227517, mem227518, mem227519, mem227520, mem227521, mem227533, mem227534, mem227535, mem227544, mem227545, mem227546, mem227547, mem227688, mem227689, mem227690, mem227695, mem227696, mem227697, mem227698, mem227699, mem227710, mem227711, mem227782; workers: mem227472; workers, male: mem227503