Monday, October 04, 2010

Species Diversity and Distribution Patterns of the Ants of Amazonian Ecuador

So, if you've ever wondered what it is I have been doing for the past 10 years, a big chunk of it was just published in PLoS ONE.  You can read the whole article here.

Species Diversity and Distribution Patterns of the Ants of Amazonian Ecuador
Kari T. Ryder Wilkie, Amy L. Mertl, James F. A. Traniello
Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Ants are among the most diverse, abundant and ecologically significant organisms on earth. Although their species richness appears to be greatest in the New World tropics, global patterns of ant diversity and distribution are not well understood. We comprehensively surveyed ant diversity in a lowland primary rainforest in Western Amazonia, Ecuador using canopy fogging, pitfall traps, baits, hand collecting, mini-Winkler devices and subterranean probes to sample ants. A total of 489 ant species comprising 64 genera in nine subfamilies were identified from samples collected in only 0.16 square kilometers. The most species-rich genera were Camponotus,Pheidole, Pseudomyrmex, Pachycondyla, Brachymyrmex, and Crematogaster. Camponotus andPseudomyrmex were most diverse in the canopy, while Pheidole was most diverse on the ground. The three most abundant ground-dwelling ant genera were Pheidole, Solenopsis and Pyramica.Crematogaster carinata was the most abundant ant species in the canopy; Wasmannia auropunctata was most abundant on the ground, and the army ant Labidus coecus was the most abundant subterranean species. Ant species composition among strata was significantly different: 80% of species were found in only one stratum, 17% in two strata, and 3% in all three strata. Elevation and the number of logs and twigs available as nest sites were significant predictors of ground-dwelling ant species richness. Canopy species richness was not correlated with any ecological variable measured. Subterranean species richness was negatively correlated with depth in the soil. When ant species were categorized using a functional group matrix based on diet, nest-site preference and foraging ecology, the greatest diversity was found in Omnivorous Canopy Nesters. Our study indicates ant species richness is exceptionally high at Tiputini. We project 647–736 ant species in this global hotspot of biodiversity. Considering the relatively small area surveyed, this region of western Amazonia appears to support the most diverse ant fauna yet recorded.

Citation: Ryder Wilkie KT, Mertl AL, Traniello JFA (2010) Species Diversity and Distribution Patterns of the Ants of Amazonian Ecuador. PLoS ONE 5(10): e13146. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013146

Thursday, June 03, 2010

CNN report on Yasuni

CNN aired a report on Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador, where I did my doctoral research.  It includes an interview with my favorite director of Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Kelly Swing.  You can also take a look at some context for the story that was put up on YouTube – find it with the keywords “Yasuni forever.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tiputini Termites

Along with all those billions of ants I collected from Tiputini Biodiversity Station, I also collected some termites.  Why?  To see if there was a correlation between ant diversity and termite diversity.  Ants and termites have a variety of significant relationships with each other from predatory to mutualistic, and I wanted to see if one could influence the other.  What do you think?

Below is a list of the termite species collected during ant collections from Tiputini.  Termite identifications were made by Reginaldo Constantino.

sp. 1
sp. 2
sp. 3
sp. 4
cf. testaceus
sp. A
cf. nordenskioeldi
sp. (workers)
sp. 2
sp. (worker)

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!