A video arrived in my inbox this morning that absolutely made my week. Jennie Russ and Ryan Buck from Evergreen State College have adapted the LLAMA project into an animated short:
What’s going on?
Myrmecology took a technological leap in the 1990s. A protocol for standardized mass collecting of soil & leaf litter arthropods was refined from a technique called winkler sifting. A square meter of forest floor is chopped and sifted into mesh bags, and these are hung over a bag of alcohol to catch arthropods as they fall from the sample. It’s almost like magic. Strange creatures emerge from what seemed like featureless muck, and in astounding numbers.
Not only did the technique produce vast piles of specimens from a previously underexplored habitat (yielding a plethora of new species), it also introduced a singular methodology that could be replicated all over the world. With a standard sampling scheme, scientists could more directly compare the biological diversity of forests. This new trick fueled the growth of ant macroecology, the study of global patterns of ant diversity, and scientists could really sink their teeth into the question of why some places have more species than others.
Brian Fisher’s Antweb grew out of a winkler-sifting project in Madagascar. Similar projects were launched in Paraguay, Fiji, and elsewhere. Project LLAMA– featured in the film above- surveys the litter arthropods of Central America.
What a charming video. I imagine it will become required viewing for anyone learning the ropes of tropical biodiversity.