Title: "Exploring the ant tree-of-life: phylogeny and evolution of the world’s preeminent social insects"
Abstract: Ants are one of evolution’s great success stories. Arising in the mid-Cretaceous about 120 million years ago, they now comprise a diverse assemblage of more than 15,000 species, and collectively occupy most of the world’s terrestrial landscapes. Advances in ant systematics in the 21st century have been driven by the use of molecular phylogenetic methods, combined with detailed morphological studies of extant and fossil taxa. Recent phylogenomic approaches, employing targeted enrichment of ultra-conserved elements (UCEs), are particularly promising. Relationships within and among the major ant clades are becoming increasingly well resolved, and are providing important insights into the tempo and mode of ant evolution. Across the ant tree-of-life several patterns are noteworthy: (1) there is strong fidelity of ant clades to specific biogeographic regions; (2) ant workers are especially prone to convergent evolution; and (3) there is marked heterogeneity in rates of phenotypic evolution among lineages. The causes and implications of these findings are discussed.