Archive for the ‘Ants’ Category

Prenolepis imparis – winter ant (queen)
Urbana, Illinois

Photo details: Canon mp-e 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f13, 1/250 sec, diffused flash

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Myrmicocrypta camargoi Sosa-Calvo & Schultz 2010

The world’s ant fauna continues to yield new treasures. Myrmicocrypta camargoi, described in a new paper by Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo & Ted Schultz, is the largest species in this fungus-growing genus.

source: Sosa-Calvo, J., Schultz, T.R. 2010. Three Remarkable New Fungus-Growing Ant Species of the Genus Myrmicocrypta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with a Reassessment of the Characters That Define the Genus and Its Position within the Attini. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 103(2):181-195.
doi: 10.1603/AN09108

artwork by Vichai Malikul

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Leptomyrmex darlingtoni, Australia

A big day for ant evolution! The Ant Tree of Life research group (AToL) has published their dolichoderine phylogeny in the journal Systematic Biology.

Dolichoderines are one of the big ant subfamilies, comprising just under ten percent of the world’s ant species. These are dominant, conspicuous ants noted for having ditched the heavy ancestral ant sting and armor in favor of speed, agility, and refined chemical weaponry. Most dolichoderines live in large colonies with extensive trail networks, and they fuel their frenetic lifestyle through copious consumption of hemipteran honeydew.

The paper is unfortunately behind a subscription barrier, but I’ve reproduced the primary finding below. (more…)

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Who were those magical mystery insects?

The ant is Prenolepis imparis, recognizable by the attractive hourglass constriction in her mid-thorax. Congrats to Julie for the answer. The ant’s hapless prey was, as Ted McRae proferred, a hackberry psyllid Pachypsylla celtidismamma (Hemiptera: Psyllidae).

The hard part was figuring out what the heck sort of group the oddball prey insect belonged to. Psyllids are related to aphids but haven’t suffered such extreme modification over the course of their evolutionary descent. They retain all sorts of general buggy traits, rendering them difficult to pick from other bugs (like Cicadas and Psocopterans) that share the same ancestral similarities.

Points are awarded as follows.

TGIQ: 2 points for order
Ted MacRae: 4 points for family and genus
Julie Stahlhut: 4 points for the ant

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Have Australians lost their fight against imported fire ants?

Despite $215 million being poured into eradication programs nationally, fire ants have claimed territory in an arc from Logan City, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, to near Grandchester, about 80km west of where the first outbreak was found at the Port of Brisbane in 2001.

Authorities now concede a new and even more expensive long-term campaign might be needed to stop them threatening our lifestyles.

I am curious as to how fire ants threaten the Aussie lifestyle, though. Do they eat Vegemite?

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While photographing a Lasius alienus colony in the park yesterday I noticed a red, round mite hanging off the leg of this worker ant. I’m glad we humans don’t have parasites like these.

Perhaps if we’re really nice, Macromite will tell us something about the little guy.

Photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f13, 1/250 sec, diffused flash heads positioned for backlighting and fill

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No, not really. I’m just kidding. Wouldn’t it be great to have an ant field guide, though?

Off and on for the past couple years I’ve been playing with concepts. A potential format is this (click to download pdf):

The salient features, in my opinion:

  • Targeted at the general naturalist, so less technical than the excellent Fisher & Cover guide
  • Organized around genera, as species IDs remain problematic without microscopes
  • With synopses of the most commonly encountered species
  • Containing brief chapters on ant ecology, collection, culture, etc

But that’s what I’d like in an ant book. The reason I’m posting this little teaser is to learn what you would like in an ant book.

What information should be covered? What do you like and dislike about the sample above? Would you prefer a guide that is more comprehensive and heavy, or more concise and portable? Should we sell it as an iPhone app in addition to, or instead of, a book? What do you think?

[note: Yes, I do know of the other ant guide effort. There is a significant chance that our projects will merge- in which case your feedback here will be useful to an even greater number of people].

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WebMD Taxonomy Fail

Not a fire ant.

But I’ll give ten Myrmecos () points to the first person who can identify what species it really is.

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Muscleman Tree Ant

Podomyrma sp.
Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia

Photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS D60
ISO 100, f13, 1/200 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper

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Cordyceps in glass

You may remember Wesley Fleming, the glass artist I blogged about last year. It seems he’s accomplished a remarkable new piece: a leafcutter ant infected with a parasitic Cordyceps fungus. As far as I know this is the first Cordyceps ever created from glass.

If you’d like to see it in person, this and some of Fleming’s other pieces will be on display at the Racine Art Museum this summer.

What is Cordyceps, you ask? Watch:

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