Day: February 18, 2012

Strumigenys, oh Strumigenys, I give in.

Strumigenys rostrata

Remember the myrmecological disagreement over maintaining Pyramica as a separate genus from the similar Strumigenys?

After fulminating on the issue for some months, I’ve decided to throw my lot in with the synonomy. I give up. They’re all just Strumigenys. I have updated my galleries accordingly.

There has not been any new research to shed light on the problem. Rather, my change is mere opinion. Considering the sizeable morphological variation within these groups and the difficulty separating them on most characters except the mouthparts- which may be prone to ecology-based convergence- I see no reason to reject the most recent taxonomic arrangement by De Andrade & Baroni-Urbani (pdf).

Until the publication of a comprehensive species-level phylogeny, then, long live Strumigenys!

Better microscope lighting in 20 seconds

Consider the standard configuration of stereomicroscope and fiber optic light used to examine insect specimens:

Arranged like this, the lights provide point sources of intense light. A shiny ant specimen lit as above looks like so:

Undiffuse light from the fiber optic source leaves harsh glare and dark shadows, and the ant’s skin textures and hairs are difficult to see. How to fix it?

Instead of directing light at the specimen, arrange white paper or styrofoam under the scope and reflect the light off that:

Moving the fiber optic arms to bounce light off a white surface replaces the harsh points with a soothing sea of even illumination.

Diffused light renders the ant’s skin textures and hairs more visible. Same ant, diffuse light. Look at the difference- it is much easier to see key characters!


  • All photos taken with an iPhone 4s, including the specimen shots. The phone’s little camera actually works pretty well held up to the scope’s eyepiece.
  • For microscope photography, this quick diffuser will still be insufficient to produce publishable-quality images. Instead, you’ll want to up the diffusion with something like the styrofoam cup trick.