Thursday, February 28, 2008 is a new web based service that has been developed for the access and storage of taxonomic info. Myrmecos is a fan. I just gave it the quickest of look-overs, but it does look very cool. Go check it out.

Site Redesign

I have recently spent way too much time redesigning my research website. Comments would be appreciated.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Awesome new scientific name: Beelzebufo

So I'm sure you have heard about this new giant frog fossil found in Madagascar. It's big news. What I didn't know, and just found out last night, is that it is called Beelzebufo, which I think is an absolutely fabulous name. I really do appreciate a clever scientific name. I also appreciate all the crazy headlines this frog has inspired. I'm starting to feel bad for the poor thing:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

See more great scientist valentine's at Ironic Sans

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Climate change and the fate of the Amazon

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B has a theme issue on ‘Climate change and the fate of the Amazon.’ And it looks like it's all available online. Check it out here.

Happy belated Darwin Day

Yesterday was Darwin's 199th birthday. Here is a quote that I particularly like:

Nothing before had ever made me thoroughly realise, though I had read various scientific books, that science consists in grouping facts so that general laws or conclusions may be drawn from them.

- Charles R. Darwin

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Linnaeus' Legacy #4: Darwin Month Extravaganza!

The Other 95% has a nice roundup of interesting blog entries in the taxonomic/Darwinian/Linnaean genres:
"the economy of nature"

species are "alloted places" in nature

"everyone's war against everyone"

These were concepts familiar to Darwin by the time he wrote On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. They influenced his thinking are solidified within his writings. Yet, these are not Darwin's own words, nor his own ideas. Other's works weighed heavily on Charles Darwin from Thomas Malthus and Gilbert White to Charles Lyell and William Paley. The words, or ideas, are none of their own as well. These words and concepts belong to Carolus Linnaeus, the namesake of this carnival and founder of taxonomy.

Linnaeus had a very ecological view on organisms and their place in nature. He was particular interested in reproduction and had a vivid imagery associated with writings when describing bisexual plants. "Nine men in the bride's chamber, with one woman" describes the 9 stamens surrounding a singular pistil on a flower. Erasmus Darwin, Charles' grandather, was similarly vivid and poetic. Darwin apparently read translations of Oeconomia Naturae and Politia Naturae in the 1840s, though I am not sure if he read the Systema, but he certainly would have been aware of it and followed Linnaeus' taxonomic guidelines. This month brings you posts in the traditions of Linnaeus and Darwin.
Deep Sea News reports on the discovery of an entirely new order of fish.
"Tube-eye is a strange fish indeed. It possesses a pair of telescopic eyes that lie anteriorly when not feeding. During feeding, the head is oriented up and back and the mouth is moved forward. The mouth cavity is balloonable and can greatly expand its size (38X). This creates negative pressure and provides suction for capturing prey."
In true linnaean fashion, the Systema Brachyurom is out!! An amazing reference for identifying every brachyuran, or true crab, IN. THE. WORLD. Can't plug this one enough! I've already downloaded it (its open access!!!) and flipped through it. It is well put together with clear photos to aid in identification. Check it out for free courtesy of the Raffles Museum in Singapore.

10,000 Birds has an interview with David Ringer, creator of Birdstack. Find about more about the bird listing website that has the "potential to become the web standard for listing". Mike also encourages bloggers who discuss natural history and ecology to register their blogs on the Nature Blogs Network.

What are the mysteries of the platypus? Oh let me count the ways... A 3lb Monkey Brain describes how the fossil record elucidates this mystery, it might not be the one your thinking of. Browse his blog for my systematic fun!

The Catalogue of Organisms reports on breaking news that will Shock and Awe™ the genetics world. Should Drosophila melangaster be maintained despite obvious paraphyly?? Or should it become the wine-cellar fly of Linnaeus? Or will the evil geneticists win because of their laziness to accept the rules of nomenclature?

A character analysis of moray eels is discussed over Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice and Sunset. Every Monday, Rick discusses a species on moray eel on his series That's a Moray Monday. Its turning out to be a online field guide! He hints at a cool new species of Moray for the next Monday's edition so stay tuned to the blogdial.

John Lynch tells us that a new beetle is named after Roy Orbison and giant elephant shrew was recently described. Laelaps also talks about the Grey-Faced Sengi in more detail. Pondering Pikaia picks up on this amazing discovery too. While at Living the Scientific Life, a new subspecies of bird was discovered in Nepal and a giganormous rodent found in New York City modern day Uruguay.

Greg Laden discusses the ascent of cat breeds (with a hilarious LOLcats to boot). In thinking about the number of species of flies (not cats), The Questionable Authority has a quiz about "How many different species should these three populations be grouped in, and why?" Tune in on Monday to find out the answer!

Finally, last year Darren Naish at Tetrapod Zoology helped to blow the whistle on inappropriate activity in the field of palaeontology. Mike Taylor has the latest from Aetogate. Darren updates us on this issue and the press it has received. Christopher at the Catalogue asks what would the ICZN do about the issue? Adventures in Ethics and Science discusses the ethical ramifications of this and then explains why the "is this really that important?" attitude is detrimental, then wonders which field of science has the most integrity problems. Additional coverage is provided by The Ethical Palaeontologist, Cryptomundo, Dinochick Blogs, Laelaps, Gene Expression, The Open Source Palaeontologist, Slashdot, One Big Lab, A Blog Around the Clock, All My Faults Are Stress-Related, Dinochick again, Palaeoblog, A Three-Pound Monkey Brain, Stephen Sorrell, The Reptipage. As you can see, this is a very important issue and each blog offers their unique perspective on this and the support for ethics in taxonomy and palaeontology is overwhelming.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Arboreal ant diversity in a central African forest

the African Journal of Ecology has a new paper out on arboreal ant diversity by Yanoviak, Fisher, and Alonso. Here is the abstract:
"Like many developing tropical areas, central Africa is subject to substantial anthropogenic disturbance associated with the large-scale harvesting of natural resources. We surveyed the ants of the forest canopy at an oil extraction site near Gamba, Gabon. Ants were collected by hand and with tuna baits from nine tree crowns in late secondary forest. Thirty-six ant species were collected in all. Michaelis-Menten and incidence-based richness coverage estimates indicate that this represents 65% of the arboreal ant species richness at the site. Crematogaster spp. generally were behaviourally aggressive and monopolized baits in most trees. Taxonomic similarity (classical Sørensen index) averaged 0.25 (range = 0.00-0.50) between trees and was not a function of the distances separating them. No edge effects were detected, but there was a tendency for trees within the same forest patch to show higher similarity in ant composition than trees in separate patches. Overall arboreal ant species richness and composition in the disturbed forests around Gamba were similar to those found in primary forests of the region." Link

Thursday, February 07, 2008

ants playing roller derby

So I received a get well card from my labmates. Not just any card, but a card with ants playing roller derby! So fabulous. I love the names and how an attempt has been made to have each ant be morphologically correct at least in terms of petiole number and relative size. And of course, Gigantiops destructor is a ref, because how else would you utilize those giant eyes? Brilliant! Make sure to click on the picture to see it up close so you can read all the words!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Roundup of ant research and some interesting miscellania

Who's scooping whom and why this matters?

An interesting story about "a group of people [who] have made it a habit to scoop their colleagues by publishing other people's information (shown by colleagues in private) and naming species faster by using their in-house Journal" from A Blog Around the Clock
Ants And Avalanches: Insects On Coffee Plants Follow Widespread Natural Tendency
"Ever since a forward-thinking trio of physicists identified the phenomenon known as self-organized criticality --- a mechanism by which complexity arises in nature --- scientists have been applying its concepts to everything from economics to avalanches. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Toledo have shown that clusters of ant nests on a coffee farm in Mexico also adhere to the model. Their work, which has implications for controlling coffee pests, appears in the Jan. 24 issue of the journal Nature." from Science Daily
New Species: Lordomyrma vanua
"Last week’s Zootaxa contained a excellent short paper by Andrea Lucky and Eli Sarnat describing a pair of new Lordomyrma species, including the beautiful L. vanua pictured above. As is true of most insects, Lordomyrma vanua remains a largely unknown quantity. It has been collected just twice, both times from the island of Vanua, in Fiji, for which it is named." Via Myrmecos
Specificity and transmission mosaic of ant nest-wall fungi
"We characterized ascomycete fungal associates cultured for nest architecture by the ant subgenera Dendrolasius and Chthonolasius. The ants probably manage their fungal mutualists by protecting them against fungal competitors. The ant subgenera display different ant-to-fungus specificity patterns, one-to-two and many-to-one, and we infer vertical transmission, in the latter case overlaid by horizontal transmission. Possible evolutionary trajectories include a reversal from fungiculture by other Lasius subgenera and inheritance of fungi through life cycle interactions of the ant subgenera. The mosaic indicates how specificity patterns can be shaped by an interplay between host life-cycles and transmission adaptations." Via PNAS

Isabella Rossellini's bug porn

"Green Porno is a series of very short films conceived, written, co-directed by and featuring Isabella Rossellini about the sex life of bugs, insects and various creatures. The films are a comical but insightful study of the curious ways certain bugs “make love”. “Green” echoes the ecological movement of today and our interest in nature, and “Porno” alludes to the racy ways bugs, insects and other creatures have sex, if human, these acts would not be allowed to be screened or air on television, considered instead as most filthy and obscene." from Twitch
2007 Periodic Table of Elements Printmaking Project
"Ninety-six printmakers of all experience levels, have joined together to produce 118 prints in any medium; woodcut, linocut, monotype, etching, lithograph, silkscreen, or any combination. The end result is a periodic table of elements intended to promote both science and the arts."
What I Killed Today
I found this to be a surprisingly moving record of animals euthanized by one vet tech. Via BoingBoing

unintentional hiatus

Here are some new things I have learned about myself in the past couple of weeks:

I do not have

  • Tuberculosis
  • Whooping Cough
  • Legionnaire's Disease
  • confidence in my healthcare providers
  • a healthy immune system

I do have
  • pneumonia in both lungs
  • chronic sinusitis
  • possible asthma
  • small veins
  • a lot of catching up to do
My apologies for the unintentional hiatus.