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The manuscript is now ready to be published. Congratulations.
Dear Dr Sharaf,
Even though this new version of the manuscript has been significantly improved, it needs some minor revisions in order to be publishable.
Please, provide keywords and amendments as suggested by the reviewers, with particular reference to reviewer 1. For example, please consider the number of antennomers as the first character for the identification key and correct the number of antennomers of Monomorium holothir.
This is a response to the amended MS; hence, I am incorporating all my latest comments under one head.
I have examined all the documents, including the revised MS, the original MS with tracked changes and my own comments and those of the other referee. I regret that, in my opinion, substantial changes are still required, and I have come across further glitches that neither I nor my colleague picked up on originally. However, the major issues remain those that were identified but have not been addressed satisfactorily.
The issues raised by the anonymous referee do seem to have been addressed, but not some of my own. These are highlighted with yellow, sticky edits in the present submission. I strongly urge the authors to check on all edits as this does not seem to have been done originally (mainly the figures and figure captions) - at any rate the latter are not mentioned in the letter of rebuttal.
Firstly, I notice the keywords have been omitted, but presume this is due to the requirements of PeerJ. There are a few minor edits in this section of the MS, but I have suggested a clarification of the Diagnosis subheading. The authors seem to have misunderstood my comment on M. exiguum in the Synoptic list, so I have expanded my original statement so as to clarify it. However, the main issue is the taxonomic key, and this part needs to be completely revised: I have suggested how this may be done. Furthermore, Monomorium holothir has 12-segmented antennae, not 11-segmented antennae as mentioned in the key (but correctly mentioned under the description of this species). There are a couple of additional corrections indicated by stickies, but the other main area that should be addressed is figure and figure captions. Figure 5 reproduces the exact same data as Figs 6-11, and should be deleted. I have also suggested Figures 3 and 4 would look better as line drawing and map, respectively, but I leave this to the discretion of the authors. However the map legends and data points need to stand out more.
The suggestions were taken and argued by the authors. The theoretical aspects and results are enough to understand the importance of this taxonomic work.
The authors followed the recommendations and took into account the taxonomic suggestions, making the data and information comparatively useful.
The results are substantially important for the understanding of ant biodiversity in relatively studied areas, such as the Arabian Peninsula.
Minor changes that would help in the structure of this section of the manuscript are inserted
Consider the following:
Line 144: Please, you must include information on the distribution of the species or remove "and distribution" since you are only providing the taxonomic synopsis of the species addressed in this study.
You are using two ways to reference the Antweb images. Make the same format for all images taken from www.AntWeb.org.
The authors provide an important contribution to the knowledge of the ant fauna from the Arabian Peninsula with description of a new species. In addition, the authors argue that two ant species do not actually represent different species but should be treated as synonyms.
Even if this study offers “food for thoughts” not only for (ant) taxonomists but also for ecologists and biodiversity specialists, it needs some important revisions prior to publication.
First of all, the authors must provide stronger arguments to support the hypothesis of synonymy of the two species Monomorium dryhimi and M. montanum.
Another important issue concerns the description of the new species (for details, see the comments of the reviewer 2 in the attached file).
Other minor revisions that will improve the manuscript have been carefully added by the reviewers in the attached file (e.g. source of the acronyms used for repositories of materials, cited literature, etc.).
The MS is professionally written with just occasional lapses that I have marked with sticky notes. Spelling errors are absent as are most typographical errors. However, the authors should recheck their work for small glitches that are additional to those I have noted. The introduction is adequate, but I suggest that part of the ‘Discussion’ at the end of the article should properly be inserted in the Introduction. The literature is well-referenced and relevant.
In terms of structure, the MS follows conventional formatting as is required in taxonomic articles, with Materials and methods and Measurements and Indices appropriate to the subject matter.
The figures mostly consist of good quality photographs, but I have indicated my preference for white maps and simple line drawings over annotated photographs. For some reason, most of the figures have duplicate captions, and unless this is required by the journal, one of these should be deleted in each instance. Figure 5 and Table 1 appear to me to be duplications of content shown elsewhere and, in my opinion are unnecessary and should be deleted.
The raw data appears to be provided consistent with normal scientific ethics and standards, but it appears that the authors need to include a blurb that covers the erection of new species that are recorded in an online journal. I have noted this fact with a sticky note and this should be checked by the senior author.
The original research is within the scope of the journal. The content is not particularly novel or eye-catching, but the monographing of a small species group within the Myrmicinae is a valuable contribution for this part of the world; especially since the previous literature consists mainly of isolated records and descriptions.
The investigation has obviously been performed conscientiously, with proper investigation into the availability of type material for comparative purposes and painstaking listing of other, non-type material. In one case the sheer volume of the material examined suggests the record should be presented as a summary rather than in full. I have some qualifications about the diagnosis of the species-group, and indicated how the authors can clarify how they approach this. Other, smaller, qualifications over the taxonomic listing and the taxonomic key to worker ants in the group are also noted with sticky notes. One point I note is that the source of the acronyms used for repositories of material is not the most current and I suggest that the authors use a more modern source (one is suggested).
The findings of the authors appear sound, although I raise a query whether one of the species discussed, here described as new, actually belongs to the target group. However, this is a query only based on its odd appearance and not an objection.
The content of this paper does not include statistics or other quantifiable data, and those figures that do appear, i.e., measurements and indices, are soundly based and conform to established norms.
This type of work does not normally carry concluding remarks. In fact, the authors do provide a summary Discussion and conclusion, but the contents of these segments could be better placed elsewhere (see my comments under ‘Basic Reporting’).
Apart from a short Introduction and the final discussion and conclusions, the authors provide little in the way of expanded discourse and this is primarily limited to factual observations, so speculation is virtually absent. Some of the species look as though they may be introductions to the region, but the authors do not discuss that possibility.
This paper does not cover new ground or introduce novel techniques but, in general, it is a solid standard taxonomic monograph and suitable for publication in your journal. As mentioned, I have indicated reservations at some points, and trust the authors may consider the specific suggestions I raise before publication. However, these are relatively few.
I have annotated the .pdf with the comments mentioned above, and also where I have noted the usual blemishes and glitches in a paper of this size.
In some parts of the text, some minor problems related to English were detected. See inside the text.
The references used support the structure and development of the research. The background is sufficient to understand the research problem addressed. Despite this, there are problems with some cited literature that are not included in the references section.
The species treated here are relatively well supported under the morphological plane, although in some cases, there are no arguments to support the hypotheses of synonymy. The latter must be reconsidered so that the nomenclatural amendments acquire stability and allow improving the quality of taxonomic information.
This taxonomic revision covers a regional geographic range; however, the information contributes to the formulation of research in systematics and biogeography.
Here, the authors use standard methodologies in the taxonomic treatment of ants, which allows that comparisons between the treated species, allow the evaluation and revalidation of taxonomic hypotheses already proposed.
This cannot be considered an underlying conclusion of the work. The authors must present one or several conclusive ideas related to the current diversity of the group's fauna in KAS.
I suggest that the paragraph not be abandoned and then be used to finalize this section.
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