Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New website design

I am also playing around with a new design for my genus pages. This can be seen on the Tranopelta page. I am very enamored of Jochen H. Bihn's Ants of Cachoeira website, especially the genus pages (for example), which have all the relevant information on one page, so it is easy to see everything at once, and am trying to accomplish something similar (although clearly with much less knowledge of web design). It is of course still under construction, but I would appreciate any feedback that you may have. What sort of information would be most useful to have? What format is easiest to work with? Are the colors annoying? Any feedback at all would be appreciated. Thank you.

The Attini

I have finally gotten some IDs on my Attine specimens, courtesy of Ted Schultz at the National Museum of Natural History. I have updated the main pages of my webpage as well as the specific pages for Apterostigma (1 species + 7 morphospecies), Acromyrmex (1 species), Cyphomyrmex (10 species and morphospecies), Mycetarotes (1 species), Mycocepurus (1 species), Sericomyrmex (2 morphospecies), and Trachymyrmex (6 species). Plus, of course, a bunch of reproductives. I am still waiting on the Myrmicocrypta, which Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo is looking at.

I also updated my Research page, especially the "My progress so far" table. I am somewhat shocked to discover that I am very near to being done with these identifications. How is that possible? I have 8 genera that are currently being looked at by other myrmecologists (Azteca, Paratrechina, Myrmicocrypta, Pyramica, Rogeria, Strumigenys, Hypoponera, and Discothyrea). Besides those, all I have left are Carebarella, Tapinoma, Gnamptogenys, Camponotus, Myrmelachista, Eurhopalothrix, and Octostruma. Yay for me.

photograph © Alex Wild 2004
Photo: Atta ants, which were definitely all over Tiputini, but which never showed up in any of my collections.

ANT'IQUE wallpaper -- made with ANTS

How about some wallpaper from GAMplusFRATESI? From their website:

ANT'IQUE wallpaper is the winning project of the design competition "New Walls, please! 2007"
by German Design Council and a.s.Creation

"Seen from distance the wallpaper seems simply an antique baroque motive,
but coming closer you will discover that thousands of ants are crawling on the walls
creating this baroque wallpaper..."

Link (via BoingBoing)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ant Course 2007

The deadline to sign up for the Ant Course this summer is April 1, 2007. It is a fantastic opportunity and resource for anyone interested in myrmecology and I highly recommend it to everyone. Course descriptions, schedules, and applications can be found here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Ant Room Newsfeeder

I have been playing around with Yahoo Pipes and have through trial and error (and very little actual knowledge), created an RSS newsfeed of ant news. It can be found here. It's very basic at the moment and I would definitely like to play around with it some more, but I am quite pleased with it. Yahoo Pipes seems to be fairly intuitive to use, even for someone who isn't even really sure what an RSS is, so others should be able to figure it out, too. I tried to do something similar with uBioRSS, but I found it kind of confusing and gave up after awhile. I did, however, use the UBioRSS feeds in my Yahoo Pipes creation, so it was useful. Please take a look. I would appreciate any feedback on this.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Chinese man gets death for ant-breeding scam

BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- A Chinese man has been sentenced to death for conning people out of 3 billion yuan ($387 million) in a giant scam to breed ants, local media said on Thursday. Link via CNN

I promise always to tell the truth about ants (to the best of my ability).

Gigantiops destructor male

At the Smithsonian I was able to find a couple of Gigantiops destructor male specimens to compare to mine. Definitely the same. Click here for larger images.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Visiting the Smithsonian

So Friday I was in Washington DC and stopped by the Smithsonian ant room to visit and drop off some ants. I left 2 unit boxes of Azteca specimens for Stephanie Johnson, who is attempting to revise the genus, all my Acropyga specimens for John LaPolla (they have all already been identified but he agreed to confirm the IDs for me), and a couple more Attines for Ted Schultz, to add to the almost 300 specimens I had previously sent to him. Neither Stephanie nor John were there, but I did talk to Ted and also I had a great conversation with Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo about identifying ants in general. He also offered to look at my Rogeria and also my Dacetines, so I'm going to send those to him as soon as possible. Very exciting!

Solenopsis and Tranopelta

Stefan sorted my Solenopsis specimens into 14 morphospecies and 1 named species (Solenopsis virulens), plus a bunch of unsorted reproductives. This is a bit different from the 29 morphospecies I had previously come up with, proving once and for all that I am a splitter, not a grouper. To be fair, the specimens also included one species of Dolopomyrmex, one species of Carebarella, one species of Tranopelta, a couple of pheidole, and one Oligomyrmex. Which may just prove that I am less of a splitter and more of a crappy taxonomist. But I get better everyday.

The Tranopelta turns out to be very interesting as it is a new species of Tranopelta, distinctly different from T. gilva and T. subterranea, which I believe are the only two recognized species since Fernandez' 2003 revision. I took photos of all three species, and will post these as soon as possible.

Visiting Harvard

Okay, it has been awhile since I posted here, but mostly because I have been very busy. On the 8th of February I spent the day at Harvard. Some highlights:

  • I met Donat Agosti and Roberto Keller, who were both visiting the ant room. Roberto mentioned that he read my blog, which was super cool and made me feel like a rock star!. Donat talked with Gary about databasing and mentioned to me the importance of including unique identifiers of specimens when publishing papers. Not something I had thought about previously, but a good thought.
  • I took some photos (Probolomyrmex, Prionopelta, Carebarella, Acropyga, Tranopelta).
  • I received my new updated version of my database on Mantis 2.0beta courtesy of Piotr Naskrecki.
  • I received my Solenopsis (all sorted out!) from Stefan. Yay! I will talk more about the Solenopsis in another post.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Progress Report

I have updated my webpage with new photos (Anochetus mayri, A. bispinosis, A. diegensis, Acanthostichus quadratus), new species (Crematogaster species), and new genera (Cylindromyrmex, Carebarella).

Tomorrow I am going to Harvard to pick up my Solenopsis (I hope), pick up my new updated version of Mantis, ID some ants, and take some more photos.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Crematogasters: or Why Jack Longino Rocks

I just received a a large box in the mail from Jack Longino -- my Crematogaster! I am so super impressed with Jack I just spent half an hour trying to put a halo onto a picture of him (to denote his saintliness) but I finally gave up. It was silly. Anyway, he managed to sort the almost 700 specimens I sent him into 19 species (to be completely honest, there were also 1 Azteca, 1 Paratrechina, and 3 Pheidole specimens, none of which look anything like a Crematogaster). And pretty speedily, too. He even included some notes and other helpful information along with each species. Here they are:

  • limata complex
    • Crematogaster carinata. This species is almost certainly more than one cryptic species. The group is found throughout the Neotropics and it is almost always one of the most common species in wet forest areas. There is too much morphological variation for it to be one species, and there are morphological clusters of phenotypes, but they broadly overlap.
    • C. levior. This is very similar to and possibly indistinguishable from carinata. The Crematogaster that form big polygynous colonies in ant gardens with Camponotus femoratus are levior. They differ from carinata in having the pronotum completely smooth and shining, with no traces of longitudinal carinae. C. carinata, with more extensive longitudinal etchings or carinae on pronotum may also occur as large polygynous colonies spread through the canopy (they dominate the canopy at La Selva in Costa Rica), but they may also be smaller monogynous colonies here and there, and sometimes parabiotic with other ants like Dolichoderus. C. carinata and levior are two ends of a morphological continuum, so I can't place every specimen cleanly into one or the other. But at the same time there is this pattern, with the ant gardens ones always having shiny pronotum, and non-ant-garden ones having carinate pronotum. In the material you sent I sorted workers into carinata and levior, but I wouldn't put much faith in this. My guess is that there are two or more different species (we always tend to underestimate diversity), and my sort might approximately correspond to two of them, but there will be lots of errors.
    • C. brasiliensis. Widespread in Neotropics. Workers not always distinguishable from C. tenuicula.
    • C. limata. Widespread in Neotropics. Small workers not always distinguishable from carinata.
    • C. tenuicula. Widespread in Neotropics. Always seems less common than brasiliensis, to which it is very similar.
    • C. foliocrypta. This is very cool. This species is one I named; previously known only from Costa Rica, where it is rare. There were only two specimens in your batch, and I have kept them here. The Peruvian specimens are lighter yellow brown than Costa Rican material, but other characters match.
  • acuta group
    • C. acuta. Widespread in Neotropics. Often in more seasonal and open habitats. Never common.
    • C. JTL-034. I had to make a new morphospecies code for this one. It is part of a complex of morphospecies, none of which have names, that occur in South America. Very similar species occur elsewhere in Ecuador, in Amazonian Brazil, in Bolivia.
  • crinosa group
    • C. erecta. Widespread in Amazonian wet forest, extending northward through Panama, to southern Costa Rica.
    • C. rochai. Common in dry forest habitats throughout neotropics; rare in wet forest.
    • C. crucis. Rare, Costa Rica to Ecuador.
    • C. JTL-026. cf. crucis, Colombia and Ecuador.
    • C. stollii. Widespread in Neotropics. builds cool carton runways on treetrunks, like termites.
  • others
    • C. curvispinosa. Widespread in neotropics; small nests in dead sticks, etc. Usually open scrubby habitats or canopy.
    • C. JTL-022. Seems to be an Andean species; I have records from Colombia to Peru. Not too common.
    • C. sotobosque. Widespread in neotropics. Nests in leaf litter of mature forest, forages on low vegetation.
    • C. egregior. Amazonian.
    • C. nigropilosa. Widespread in northern Neotropics. Probably a complex of species.
    • C. flavomicrops. Widespread, usually in leaf litter, mature forest floor.
Pictures and lots more info can be found at Jack's Ants of Costa Rica website. The Crematogaster page can be found here.

Photo: fotopol's flickr account

Monday, February 05, 2007

Mystery Ants

Now that I have a convenient camera, I am going to institute a new page on my site -- the Mystery Ant page. I will post a few quick and dirty photos of specimens that I need help on. Hopefully there will be folks out there who recognize some of them and together we can harness the power of the internet for the betterment of all. Yay! Come and play!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Microscope Digital Camera

In a previous post I talked about my search for a cheap but useful camera attachment for the microscope. I thought I would try the Digital Blue QX5 Computer Microscope. I did try this toy microscope out. It was possible to get fairly decent photos with it but it took a lot of fiddling and playing with lights and didn't seem worth the effort to me.

I then decided to try out a microscope digital camera I found on Ebay. As far as I can tell, it has no product name. It just says "DCM130 (1.3M pixels, USB2.0) Digital Camera for Microscope." There is also a 3 megapixel version. It arrived in a nice box with 2 adaptors (one of them fit the camera to my Wild M5 perfectly), a USB cable, and a CD with a software package called ScopePhoto on it. As far as I can tell this product is manufactured in China and is being imported to the US by a few individuals. The software definitely has some issues with being written by a non-English speaker. Nevertheless, I found it fairly easy to figure out.

Overall I would highly recommend this little gadget. It does exactly what I want it to do -- it displays what I am seeing in the microscope on the computer and lets me take photos of it. The photos are pretty decent considering the price (I paid $149 on ebay for it). It takes videos, too, but I haven't tried that feature yet. I was able to calibrate the program so that it will measure lengths, widths, etc. There is even a function on it called "image fusion" that is sort of like automontage. I haven't really tried that out yet, but it looks useful.

There are several folks on Ebay who are selling this item for anywhere between $129 and $390. Take a look.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Back to Work -- New Genera

So, I finally headed back to Harvard yesterday after having not been for quite awhile. Got lots of stuff done.

  • I made a date with Stefan to finish looking at my Solenopsis next week. He wrote it in his calendar, so I have high hopes.
  • I brought Stefan more Solenopsis (sorry!). Mostly reproductives.
  • I also brought a (long lost) tray of specimens which I had labeled as Carebarella. In a previous post, I wrote about how I discovered that all of my Carebarella turned out to be Solenopsis and I didn't have any Carebarella at all. Well, then I found this tray of Carebarella and some of them really looked like carebarella so I thought I would have Stefan look at them to be sure. Well, most of them were Solenopsis, but some of them were actually Carebarella (Yay!). And some of them turned out to be some sort of a weird Tranopelta that Stefan says looks totally different from other Tranopelta and kind of looks like Dolopomyrmex. So that's cool.
  • I looked at a couple of male ants that were so distinctive that I thought for sure I would be able to at least put a genus on them. One of them (pictured above) I thought was a male Gigantiops destructor. I still think that is what it is, but Harvard sadly had no males for me to compare it to. Another one I thought looked similar to photos I had seen online of Cylindromyrmex, but was unsure because I hadn't collected any workers of that genus. Well, it is definitely Cylindromyrmex, although I still am not sure what species it is. I compared my specimen to C. meinerti, C. darlingtoni, and C. godmani, and it was definitely not one of those. I will have to investigate further.
  • I took my small collection of Carebara to be checked but came up empty. None of the species I had identified my specimens to were available at Harvard and of the ones that were, there were mostly queens and hardly any workers. I'll have to figure out another way to confirm those.
  • I took a tray of Dolichoderus reproductives and was able to ID some of them as D. bidens, but came up short on the rest. I ran out of time, though.
  • I also took a few more photos of my specimens using the Syncroscopy/Automontage system. I will try to get those up on my website ASAP.