Monday, December 07, 2009

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation

Charles Darwin's on the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation
by Michael Keller, illustrated by Nicolle Rager Fuller

I admit that I have not seen this book in person yet but it is illustrated by my cousin, Nicolle Rager Fuller, and therefore must be awesome.  Also, it has gotten a lot of good reviews (from Panda's Thumb, ScienceNews, and Graphic Novel Reporter, for instance).  It's on my Christmas list.  Maybe it should be on yours, too!

Impact of Flooding on the Species Richness, Density and Composition of Amazonian Litter-Nesting Ants

Better late than never:

Impact of Flooding on the Species Richness, Density and Composition of Amazonian Litter-Nesting Ants

Authors: Mertl, Amy L.; Ryder Wilkie, Kari T.; Traniello, James F. A.
Source: Biotropica, Volume 41, Number 5, September 2009 , pp. 633-641(9)

Litter-nesting ants are diverse and abundant in tropical forests, but the factors structuring their communities are poorly known. Here we present results of the first study to examine the impact of natural variation in flooding on a highly diverse (21 genera, 77 species) litter-nesting ant community in a primary Amazonian forest. Fifty-six 3 × 3 m plots experiencing strong variation in flooding and twenty-eight 3 × 3 m terra firme plots were exhaustively searched for litter-nesting ants to determine patterns of density, species richness and species composition. In each plot, flooding, litter depth, twig availability, canopy cover, plant density, percent soil nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus were measured. Degree of flooding, measured as flood frequency and flood interval, had the strongest impact on ant density in flooded forest. Flooding caused a linear decrease in ant abundance, potentially due to a reduction of suitable nesting sites. However, its influence on species richness varied: low-disturbance habitat had species richness equal to terra firme forest after adjusting for differences in density. The composition of ant genera and species varied among flood categories; some groups known to contain specialist predators were particularly intolerant to flooding. Hypoponera STD10 appeared to be well-adapted to highly flooded habitat. Although flooding did not appear to increase species richness or abundance at the habitat scale, low-flooding habitat contained a mixture of species found in the significantly distinct ant communities of terra firme and highly flooded habitat.

printable version

Thursday, July 09, 2009

GigaPan ant

I'm not totally clear on what GigaPan is, but check out this awesome panorama photo of Eutetramorium mocquerysi from Madagascar.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a few links to tide you over...

Not exactly Rocket Science has a very interesting post entitled How research saved the Large Blue Butterfly. Hint: first they had to save some ants.

Bug Girl's Blog comments on Pseudonyms and anonymity with a really nice quote from Charles Darwin: "I am dying by inches, from not having any body to talk to about insects..." Very nice.

From ScienceDaily comes news that Linnaeus invented the index card. Who knew?

Myrmecos has a wonderful post about the difference between Smithistruma and Pyramica.

The New York Times has an interview with Bert Holldobler.

And, just for kicks, I gotta give props to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, an NBA development team. Go check out their website! Love the theme, from the tagline "join the invasion" to the kids club "ants army" to the cheerleaders "Madame Ants." Not to mention the awesome mascot "The Mad Ant" (see above). Rock on!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Insects In Flagrante

More insect sex here.

And, while we're on the subject of animal sex, Isabella Roselini's Green Porno is now in its second season! If you haven't experienced this, you must do so now. Go. Now. Watch the whale one.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Colony as Art

There is a new ant exhibit at the Smithsonian, which features, among other things, Walter Tschinkel's lovely casts of ant colonies. Which reminded me of a recent post on BoingBoing featuring Hilary Berseth's beehive art. The article, explaining how he gets his bees to build their honeycomb structure in just a certain way, is fascinating. And check out the Smithsonian website for a nice photo gallery of where ants live.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Multiple Choice question

Which of the following headlines are real (real as in they are the titles of serious news stories)

  1. Ants have magnets in their antennae
  2. Ants Demand 23.9-Hour Workday
  3. Brain-Controlling Flies to Triumph Over Alien Ants?
  4. Magneto-ants pump iron
  5. Ant Farm Teaches Children About Toil, Death
  6. FOR KIDS: Night of the living ants
  7. Children bitten by ants, mother arrested
  8. Zombie ants walk the earth in East Texas
  9. Study Shows Ants Can Smell Their Fallen Comrades
  10. Latest pest-control attempt: Turn fire ants into zombies

Answer: all of them except for #2 and #5

Thursday, May 14, 2009

So, you want to be a citizen scientist?

Photo: Christmas Bird Count (Pool) Flickr group

I am slowly trying to get myself back into the blogging swing of things. Here is a CNN article from a couple of weeks ago that caught my eye. I love the idea of citizen scientists:

(CNN) -- As a hobby, Suzie Jirachareonkul, a teacher and mother of two, spends many of her nights searching for endangered toads on the country roads near her home outside Cape Town, South Africa.

She often finds them flattened on the street.

"They're so beautiful and it's just really hard to live with, especially when you're living on the road right here," the 33-year-old said of the toad deaths. "So we started doing something about it. We started saving them off the road in the middle of the rain."

When a scientist caught onto her efforts, Jirachareonkul and a friend assembled about 20 volunteers -- a group she calls the "Toad NUTS" -- to collect data on the endangered Western Leopard Toad.

The information they collect is being used in scientific research.

Read more here

Some other interesting sites about citizen science:

Friday, May 08, 2009

Look! A Paper!

Diversity of ground-dwelling ants in primary and secondary forests in Amazonian Ecuador

Kari T. Ryder Wilkie, Amy L. Mertl & James F.A. Traniello

Abstract: An inventory of the ground-dwelling ant faunas of primary and secondary forests at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Amazonian Ecuador revealed a total of 101 ant species in 32 genera. Eighty species were collected from the primary forest, while 65 species were collected from the secondary forest. Species overlap between the two sites was low (42.6%) and the composition was significantly different (p<0.0001). Actual species richness was estimated to be 126 species for primary forest and 110 for secondary forest. The most species-rich genus in both habitats was Pheidole (21 species), which was also the most widespread genus, occurring in 38 of 40 collection sites. In the primary forest, in addition to Pheidole (18 species), the most species-rich genera were Crematogaster (8 species), and Pachycondyla (7 species), whereas Pheidole (17 species), Camponotus (5 species), and Pachycondyla (5 species) were the most species-rich genera in the secondary forest. These results are consistent with past studies showing that the number of ant species in secondary forest increases with time from disturbance and may approach that of primary forest within several decades, but that species composition may take significantly longer to resemble that of the original ant assemblage. The prevalence of different ant functional groups in the two habitats is discussed and the results compared to similar studies in Australia and North America.

Ryder Wilkie KT, Mertl AL, Traniello JFA. 2009. Diversity of ground-dwelling ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in primary and secondary forests in Amazonian Ecuador. Myrmecological News 12: 139-147 published Online Earlier 20 April 2009

UPDATE: printable version

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rod Page talks taxonomy

If I lived in London, this is what I would be doing on March 17th:

Rod Page, Professor of Taxonomy at Glasgow University will be giving two talks in London about taxonomy on March 17th. These will be at the Natural History Museum and later at the British Library. Details as follows:

"Going digital: what's in it for taxonomy and taxonomists?"
Flett Theatre, NHM from 11-12.30, refreshments from 10.30.

"What's in a name: Taxonomy in Crisis"
British Library, 18-20.30.

Via Vince Smith's blog

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kaspari & Davidson receive NSF funds to work on BCI

Good stuff from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute:

NSF granted funds to do research on BCNM to STRI research associate Michael Kaspari from the University of Oklahoma ($324K) and Adam Kay Davidson, St. Thomas University ($316K) for the project “Toward stoichiometric theory of ant ecology--from colony performance to community composition," on Barro Colorado Nature Monument. This project explores a basic goal of evolutionary ecology: to understand how organisms respond to environmental challenges and to scale that information up to predict the behavior of communities and ecosystems.

The big goal is to detail the natural history of 50-75 common ant species, link their reproductive biology to the colony's niche, and access the degree to which those niches are phenol typically plastic.
Also of interest is the fact that this was announced through their Twitter feed. Rock on Smithsonian!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Videos on EOL

Looks like the Encyclopedia of Life is now indexing videos as well as images from Flickr. Just upload your videos to the EOL group in Flickr and tag it with with a species name. The videos will should then be featured in EOL species pages. The Honeybee (Apis mellifera) page has an example. From EOL:

Since the group began less than 6 months ago contributors have submitted over 13,000 photos and now over 200 videos which are shown in EOL species pages. Follow the instructions on our group homepage and learn how to submit and tag your photos and videos. We encourage everyone to check out the EOL Flickr group and start submitting photos and videos today!
So.... let's get some ant videos up there!

Friday, February 13, 2009

SPADE update

"Dear Collegues/Friends and SPADE Users,
Thank you for your use/interest/request of SPADE program in the past. (SPADE: Species Prediction And Diversity Estimation). I also thank many users for very helpful comments and feedbacks, which have led substantial improvement in SPADE. Now SPADE has been recently updated/modified and added two new parts: multiple-community similarity/diversity measures and genetic applications. In the genetic application part, we have featured Jost's differentiation measure
D proposed in Jost (2008, Molecular Ecology,17, 4015-4026).

The latest version of SPADE (2009/Feb 13 Version) and the revised User Guide now can be freely downloaded online from by just clicking SPADE there. The installation procedures have been greatly simplified. Please also note that the data input format for frequency or abundance data in one community case has been properly modified in order to be consistent with data format for multiple communities. Your comments, thoughts and suggestions are always welcome."
Best regards, Anne Chao
Tsing Hua Distinguished Chair Professor
Institute of Statistics
National Tsing Hua University
Hsin-Chu, TAIWAN

Slogging through the setbacks

I have been out of commission for awhile with severe bronchitis and something called hyper-reactive airway syndrome, whatever that means. I spent 2 days in the hospital and am currently working from home because doing things like going outside in the cold distresses my lungs. At what point did I become an old person? I am back to working on my big paper and will hopefully have more to say on that matter soon. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ant links to check out

"The latest edition of Linnaeus' Legacy is up at Greg Laden's Blog. This month's keywords: Not, a third of it is in Latin, now you get it for free, dahlias, something about the way, littlest sauropodomorph, martini, can of worms, Jocko, finches on mescaline, wench, tricks, oriole, parrots, bucket full of gasoline, extinction"
"Our study demonstrates that habitat fragmentation may have a differential effect on two ecologically highly similar keystone species. Moreover, it shows that species compensation might help in maintaining an important ecosystem function (i.e. raiding by swarm-raiding army ants) in fragmented tropical rainforests."
"According to research findings published in the journal Current Biology on Jan. 8, hydrocarbons on the outside cuticle of fertile ants form 'a particular chemical signature blend.' A cocktail that an ant apparently can't deny, cover up, or lie about and which brands a cheater much like the red "A" on the bosom of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter.'"

Monday, January 05, 2009

Look! Pretty pictures!

You know how you get sometimes when you have been working on a revision of a revision of a revision and you are just so tired of the stupid thing you can barely even look at it let alone work on it? Well, that is where I am right now. So... here are some pretty pics of a leafcutter ant mating swarm in Arizona from (who else?) myrmecos.

Ants Digging the Web

While looking for info on Ants, Nature's Secret Power, I stumbled across this post comparing ants laying trails to social voting sites like Digg and Reddit. Ants do everything first!