Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Ants’

I study the wrong thing…

…according to Google Trends:

Read Full Post »

Acromyrmex octospinosus

As so many of you guessed, the Getty Taxonomy Fail was not an Atta but an Acromyrmex.

JasonC- who is rapidly emerging as the Monday Night Superstar- was the first to pick it. Eight points for getting the answer right and most of the way there with a supporting explanation. Two more points to NKanakis for a more precise discussion of the difference: Atta has two pairs of spines on the promesonotum, while Acromyrmex bears three pairs.

Back when I lived in Paraguay, I learned the local Guaraní language distinguishes between the two genera. Ysaú for Atta, and Akéké for Acromyrmex. We don’t make such a distinction in English, where both lineages are called leafcutter ants.

Read Full Post »

Well. Raising a holy hullabaloo on the internet pays dividends. Vincent Perrichot, one of the authors on the contested PNAS paper, has sent along another aspect of the mystery fossil:

Having trouble?  I’ve arranged a Formica specimen to model the pose:

In the comments below, Vincent provides his perspective: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Taxonomy Fail

Today’s breaking news in Ant Science is this:

Newly discovered pieces of amber have given scientists a peek into the Africa of 95 million years ago, when flowering plants blossomed across Earth and the animal world scrambled to adapt.

Suspended in the stream of time were ancestors of modern spiders, wasps and ferns, but the prize is a wingless ant that challenges current notions about the origins of that globe-spanning insect family…Inside the Ethiopian amber is an ant that looks nothing like ants found in Cretaceous amber from France and Burma.

Wow- that’s big news! I wonder what this amazing Ur-ant looks like? Fortunately, WIRED has a photo:

WIRED's caption- "Photos From Alexander Schmidt/PNAS: 1) Wingless ant"

Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I’ll venture that this ant looks nothing like the other ants because it is, in fact, a beetle. With clearly visible elytra, and everything.

And because the press coverage is coming out ahead of the release of the PNAS paper, we can’t check the study to see if this is WIRED’s error or if the researchers themselves actually mistook a beetle for an ant.

update: The PNAS paper (Schmidt et al., 2010, Cretaceous African life captured in amber, PNAS doi 10.1073/pnas.1000948107) is now out.  And yes, the mistake lies with the authors, as Fig. 3A shows the same beetle labeled as an ant.  They write:

The most outstanding discovery is a complete, well-preserved although enrolled, wingless female ant (Formicidae; Fig. 3A). Visible characters preclude affinities with the extinct Sphecomyrminae, which is the only subfamily recorded for contemporaneous and older ants in mid-Cretaceous Burmese and French amber (15, 16). Regardless of the subfamily, this discovery is significant because it is one of the oldest records of an ant and the earliest from Gondwana. It has been suggested that ants arose in Laurasia during the Early Cretaceous (16–18), but the present discovery challenges this hypothesis. Ants evolved concurrent with the rise of angiosperms but apparently remained scarce until radiating into the world’s most diverse and ecologically dominant eusocial organisms during the Paleogene (19). The discovery will aid in resolving the phylogeny and timescale of ant lineages.

Unless, of course, the ant is a beetle. Who the hell reviewed this paper?

update 2: on Roberto Keller’s visualization, I’m now viewing this thing as possibly not a beetle either. But still not an ant.

update 3: in the NYT, too? Ug.

Read Full Post »

[a guest post by myrmecologist Andrea Lucky]

Andrea & her intrepid field team in New Guinea

It was a dark and stormy night…

…actually, it was a dark and stormy morning.  The dawn of the 7th day of ceaseless frigid rain to be precise, and I was reminiscing about the grand old days one week before when the sun emerged and for a glorious 10 minutes it was warm enough to splash some water on my arms, legs and neck and wipe away the accumulated grime that is synonymous with field work. I wondered if that lovely burst of sunshine would ever come again (no, it wouldn’t), and every time I shiveringly remembered my quick bath I cursed myself for wasting those precious moments of sun. Washing – what was I thinking? I should have been out there looking for ants!

Papua New Guinea is a tropical paradise for any biologist, but especially for an ant biologist. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Myrmicocrypta camargoi Sosa-Calvo & Schultz 2010
Brazil

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

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »