Atta cephalotes is the most widely distributed species of leaf cutting ant. It occurs from southernmost Mexico to Ecuador and Brazil, and from the Lesser Antilles as far north as Bardbados (Holldobler & Wilson, 1990). An apparently disjunct population occurs in the Atlantic Coastal Forests of Brazil (Solomon, 2007). The species is widely regarded as a significant pest on crops including citrus, coffee, cocoa and ornamentals (Cherrett, 1986; Cherrett & Peregrine, 1976). The ecological success and ubiquity of A. cephalotes is owed in large part to its broad niche tolerance with respect to both nesting habitats and diet breadth (Solomon, 2007). The species has evolved to specialize in forest gaps, and consequently thrives in disturbed habitats such as farms and plantations (Cherrett & Peregrine, 1976). Niche modeling suggests that the current range of A. cephalotes is limited by dispersal constraints rather than suitable habitat (Solomon, 2007), and could cause significant ecological and agricultural devastation should it become introduced elsewhere (Hlldobler & Wilson, 1990). Atta cephalotes is highly variable, both among castes of the same colony and across populations. Workers vary enormously in shape, color, sculpture and pubescence (Borgmeier, 1959).
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