Monday, March 26, 2007


You can file this entry under Things-I-would-like-to- keep- to- myself- but- won't- in- the- interests- of- transparency- and- hopefully- helping- others- to- avoid- my- mistakes.

So I received an email from Juan Vieira last week, who is working on a revision of Megalomyrmex of Ecuador and has been looking at my specimens. He says he has confirmed my identifications of M. cuatiara, M. silvestrii, M. foreli, and M. mondabora, but he found two species which I had not identified -- M. poatan and M. tasyba. I went back and looked at those specimens and discovered that I had labeled both of them as M. incisus. M. incisus is not even in the same species group as the other two. What is most disheartening is that I went to the MCZ and compared all of my specimens with specimens there, and felt very comfortable with my IDs. After obsessing about this for a bit I discovered that I was working off of a bad xerox of Brandao's 1990 revision with some of the pages missing. There is a more recent paper (2003) which does not have a key but does have some updates and corrections to the 1990 paper, which I apparently did not look at. Not that that excuses anything, but it's something. When I get the specimens back I will definitely want to rekey them out so I can figure out where I went wrong, but not much I can do about that now. Juan hasn't finished looking at all of my specimens, but he did confirm my new species identification at least.

On the plus side, M. mondabora and M. poatan are both new records for Ecuador and M. tasyba is apparently very rare (only the second collection from Ecuador). Also, I noticed in Brandao's 2003 paper that he says:
"It is interesting to note that even with significant sampling efforts in different habitats, all Megalomyrmex were collected only in wet and subtropical forests; it is also worthwhile to note that Megalomyrmex has never been collected from canopies using insecticide fogging techniques (Wilson, 1987), further indicating that Megalomyrmex are ground living ants that only inhabit the litter of wet and subtropical forests in the Neotropics."
Well, according to my database, I collected three species of Megalomyrmex from the canopy, further indicating to me that Tiputini is awesome. More info to come...

Photo: Megalomyrmex foreli (I swear): in the field we called these guys Shiny Butt.

It's Official: The Ant Room is Popular!

BU Today has an article advertising their new webpage BU Blogosphere and The Ant Room appears to have made the "Most Popular" list. Cool. Apparently "The Ant Room tells readers everything they ever wanted to know (and much, much more) about ants." Are they implying that there is stuff about ants people don't want to know? Impossible! Thanks to any and all who wrote in and/or submitted to my arm twisting.

Photo: Camponotus atriceps on a bad trip?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Make your own Sugar Ants

Asobi Tsuchiya has a series of photos on her flickr account which show the making of these fantastic "sugar ants." Looks like a lot of work but they're so awesome I will forgive them for not having the correct number of legs.

Via BoingBoing

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Online Tiputini tree identification key using Google Earth

I received an email last month from Carlos Gonzalez of King's College London who is working on an online key for tree identification from high resolution aerial photography. From his email:

We have prepared an initial database for distributing the data that we have collected at TBS over the years to others working there who might want to use it. That database which is integrated with Google Earth has been incorporated into an online key for tree identification from high resolution aerial photography. The tree allows users to make identifications of 10 trees in the TBS imagery using series of questions. I would be very grateful if you would take a short time to identify 10 trees for me. This exercise contributes to my PhD projects which aims to develop better keys for tree identification from the air.
You can find instructions and access to the key and imagery at

Your computer needs to have a copy of Google Earth version 4, which is available at

I cannot identify which users have given particular answers but will be able to provide some general feedback to the group of users as a whole. PLEASE ALSO FORWARD TO OTHERS WHO MIGHT CONTRIBUTE.
So here I am forwarding. No ants, but I am a supporter of the creation of new keys and new key technologies, and always a supporter of Tiputini, where all my lovely ants are from, so if anyone else would like to help (or just check out the cool key), please go to the webpage and do so. Thanks.

Photo: View of a bunch of trees I can't identify from the canopy tower at TBS

Friday, March 23, 2007

Linnaeus turns 300

May apparently marks the 300th birthday of Carl Linnaeus. Above is a picture of my husband at the British Museum a couple of years ago trying to engage me in a conversation with this Linnaeus look-alike. I steadfastly refused to participate but did snap this photo. Carl Jr. did not seem to know what do to with a serious taxonomic question but did seem keen on showing me the rose named after him. Or did he just name it? I don't remember actually.

Anyway, Nature has a series of articles about Linnaeus and the state of taxonomy today. Good stuff. These three articles are open to anyone (if you have access to Nature, there are more -- I especially like the one entitled the Big Name Hunters):

The legacy of Linnaeus

Linnaeus at 300: The species and the specious

Linnaeus at 300: The royal raccoon from Swedesboro

Monday, March 12, 2007


Well, I have gone through all of my Tapinoma and they are all definitely Tapinoma. No idea what species they are, but they are definitely Tapinoma. I took a look at the key on the Costa Rica Ants page, and also the key on the Ants of Africa page, and tried to use them as guides for important characters. I ended up with four morphospecies (not counting reproductives): 2 species that are small and generally yellowish and whose scapes do not surpass the vertex (or just barely surpass them). One of them has a pair of erect hairs on the pronotum, and one of them does not. The latter may be litorale and the former may be JTL-001 (as described on the Ants of Costa Rica page). And 2 species that are a little larger and generally brownish and whose scapes surpass the vertex by at least 1/4 the length of their scape. One of them has a generally rounder face and scapes that surpass the vertex margin by about 1/4 the length of the scape and one of them has a face that is a little longer than wide and scapes that surpass the vertex by about 1/3 the length of the scape. There's a lot of variation between those last two so they might just be one species, but I am leaving them as two for the moment. They might be ramulorum, ramulorum inrectum or something similar. I'm really not confident enough to give them names at the moment. All of my specimens were collected from canopy foggings. If anybody out there knows anyone interested in Tapinoma, please let me know.

Photo: Tapinoma litorale, Photographer: April Nobile, Location: AntWeb

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Antbase vs. Bolton et al.

From a post by Myrmecos1 on The Ant Farm Message Board:
A short while ago, Bolton, Alpert, Ward, and Naskrecki published a CD-ROM update to the monumental Bolton (1995) Catalogue of the Ants of the World. The update can be purchased here: Bolton et al 2006. This update contains largely the same information that is already freely available at the Hymenoptera Name Server, served through

In my experience, the Bolton Catalogue is considerably easier to search than antbase, and perhaps more importantly, it contains a great many fewer errors. However, the CD-Rom is static, not continually updated as is antbase, and is copy- and export-protected, so that most of the advantages of digitized information (such as web connections) cannot be taken advantage of. It also costs $50. Not trivial.

Publication of the new CD-ROM has sparked some harsh words between the competing groups over issues relating to copyright, accessibility, and ownership of information. There is a caustic, though informative, exchange up at Donat Agosti's blog between antbase's Agosti and Bolton et al's Naskrecki here:

biodivcontext blog

I say pop some popcorn, pull up a seat, and watch the fireworks.
via The Ant Farm Message Board

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Alex Wild has a new revision of Linepithema out. It is available as a PDF here. Images, distributions, habitats, and behavioral notes can be found here on AntWeb. Fantastic! Makes me kind of wish I had some Linepithema to ID. I may, but at this moment in the saga I believe I do not. I have a large group of ants that I had at first identified as Linepithema, but when I tried to get them to species, I realized that they were all probably Tapinoma (for which I don't think there are any good identification resources -- drat!). So I put them all in a box and have not looked at them since. With Alex's new revision (and kind offer to look at any specimens I might have), I thought I would take them out and have a look at them again. I thought I would pull up a bunch of pictures of both genera on Antweb, and try to compare them. But Antweb won't let me do this! It will let you look at multiple species within a genus but when I try to open up a new tab or a new window with a different genus, it just goes back and changes the other window to the new genus. Very frustrating! Anyway, I've given up for the weekend and will try again on Monday. Cheers!

Photo: Linepithema aztecoides
Photographer: Alex Wild

Friday, March 09, 2007

2007 TED prize given to EO Wilson

EO Wilson has just received the 2007 TED Prize, a prestigious award given annually at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference. Also honored were former President Bill Clinton and the photographer James Nachtwey.

From the TED website:

For the past 20 years, members of the TED community have gathered together to share ideas and passions that are big enough to change the world.

In this spirit, we created... the TED Prize.

Each year we will honor a maximum of three individuals who have shown that they can, in some way, positively impact life on this planet.

We are looking for inventors and entrepreneurs, designers and artists, visionaries and mavericks, protectors and persuaders. Our goal is to honor and empower these people by connecting them to the formidable resources of the TED community. Our prize-winners may be very different, but they will have this in common: They will be doing something that has extraordinary potential. Something whose positive influence could spread, transcending borders. Something that can contribute to the future of life on earth.

Rather than simply receiving financial support, winners of the TED Prize will be granted something extraordinary: something which children dream about, but which adults assume is merely the stuff of fairy-tales.

They will be granted a WISH to change the world.

They may wish for anything. And we will seek to make their wish come true.

We will allow our winners several months in which to formulate their wish. We want them to think big, and we want them to fully understand the range of resources the TED Community may be able to offer them. We are willing to spend -- in hard cash -- $100,000 on each winner. And our goal is to convert this into received value that is an order of magnitude greater. How?

  • By connecting our winners into the heart of the TED community
  • By tapping into the enthusiastic support of our team of sponsors and partners
  • By working with our winners to deliver something creative and big and bold and wonderful.
EO Wilson's wish:

"I wish that we will work together to help create the key tool that we need to inspire preservation of Earth's biodiversity: the Encyclopedia of Life."
More details here.

An interesting commentary on biodivcontext.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Links Updated

I have finally updated my "Links" site which has been an awful mess for quite sometime. I hope folks will find it more useful now (and prettier).

The Ant Room gets kudos in Boston University blog contest

So apparently I was a finalist in the Boston University Show Us Your Blogs contest. I didn't win anything, but look: a list of finalists, and there I am. Whoohoo! This image has nothing to do with blogs, but it seems somewhat appropriate -- a self-reflective ant?

Monday, March 05, 2007


Just received the identifications for my Mymicocrypta specimens from Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo. They are:
  • Myrmicocrypta longinoda
  • Myrmicocrypta cf. longinoda
  • Myrmicocrypta cf. rudiscapa
I have updated the genus page, as well as the main page, with the new IDs.

The photo above is from the Ants of Costa Rica site, and is probably M. ednaella.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Darwin's "Origin of Species" free audio download

Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" is now available free to download, copy, and share. It's unabridged and over twenty-four hours long! It can be found at Librivox. via BoingBoing

I just took a look at Librivox's web page and although they are rather light on science, did find a few gems for the science-minded:

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mystery Ants -- Solved!

So thank you to everyone who emailed me with help on those mystery ants. You were all very helpful.

Mystery Ant #1 has been identified as Cylindromyrmex godmani. I have been unable to compare my sample with an actual specimen (no godmani males at MCZ and the only one at NMNH was covered in gold and a little hard to compare) but after reviewing the key (de Andrade 1998) I am fairly confident that it is godmani due to the strongly converging frontal carinae, the size, and the petiole with only traces of striae.

Mystery Ant #2 is a Hypoponera male and probably unidentifiable to species. It was good to know, though, cause I have a bunch of these buggers. I sent them all to Shawn Dash who may or may not be able to do something useful with them.

Mystery Ant #3 is a Gigantiops destructor male, which is what I thought it was but I was finally able to find a specimen to compare it to at NMNH.

I will work on adding new mystery ants soon!

New website design II

So instead of working on the revision of my probe paper (which has just been accepted to be published -- Yay!!), I spent yesterday working on the new web design of my web page. I did some editing on the Tranopelta page, then overhauled the Acanthostichus page, and then extended the new design to all of the species pages for those two genera. I'm pretty pleased with them, but it is very time consuming and I have a lot of other things I really ought to be doing instead, so I may not do much more on that front for a little while. We'll see. I also updated my "collaborators" page to include all the new people who have been helping me out.