That I failed to discern an ant in the original image doesn’t bother me. After all, the photo was the equivalent of an amber inkblot, with key bits out of focus, and the paper itself provided no support for the identification. I stand by my comments about the burden of proof lying with the authors- the paper did not adequately justify its conclusions. Partly, this is less the fault of the authors than the publishing model, where top-tier journals increasingly converge on substance-free marketing venues, the details required to properly evaluate the research relegated to online supplements or lesser journals. But that’s a topic for another day.
Fortunately for us, Vincent Perrichot, one of the study’s authors, was generous enough to share a more detailed image and fill in the missing detail. The specimen turns out to be quite a find. It’s as old as the sphecomyrmines, yet it doesn’t look like them, or like any modern ants we know. We’re in for a real treat when Vincent finishes his more thorough reconstruction of the fossil.
Rather, my more serious failing was the snarky tone I adopted in the original post. That was inappropriate for covering a scientific paper, and I apologize for having crossed the line.