Correlates and Consequences of Worker Polymorphism in Ants

Bill D. Wills, Scott Powell, Michael D. Rivera, Andrew V. Suarez

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Body size is a key life-history trait influencing all aspects of an organism's biology. Ants provide an interesting model for examining body-size variation because of the high degree of worker polymorphism seen in many taxa. We review worker-size variation in ants from the perspective of factors internal and external to the colony that may influence body-size distributions. We also discuss proximate and ultimate causes of size variation and how variation in worker size can promote worker efficiency and colony fitness. Our review focuses on two questions: What is our current understanding of factors influencing worker-size variation? And how does variation in body size benefit the colony? We conclude with recommendations for future work aimed at addressing current limitations and ask, How can we better understand the contribution of worker body-size variation to colony success? And, what research is needed to address gaps in our knowledge?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-598
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
StatePublished - Jan 7 2018


  • body size
  • division of labor
  • eusociality
  • life-history traits
  • ultimate and proximate mechanisms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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