Helena is four months old today. Mrs. Myrmecos and I have been working from home while taking care of the little munchkin. I love that my current self-employment translates to plenty of time with my daughter, no groveling for paternity leave, and no pressing need to find external childcare. In a country whose work environments typically treat parenthood like leprosy, we are indeed fortunate.
Still, I have only taken about six new photographs of insects since Helena arrived, and as you may have noticed the blogging has also been sparse. As Mrs. Myrmecos also has a dissertation to write, we’re moving ahead this week with interviews of prospective nannies. With any luck, we’ll find the right person and I’ll return to a more reasonable level of posting.
The Little Dictator
After moving Myrmecos to a new server earlier this week, a bug in the old WordPress theme started mucking up the internal structure of the site, rendering an error page to anyone trying to read the comments. While this saved many of you the trouble of having to read the comments, I figured I should probably fix it.
When that failed, I ended up installing a new design and tweaking it to a new look, combining various elements from previous incarnations of this site. This one takes me back to the very first blog. Remember this?
Callipogon sp. longhorn beetle, Belize
Of the several redesigns I’ve tested, this one- called Summit– is my favorite. Summit’s images are big, the type is clean, and the style gives the site a sort of National Geographicky feel.
What do you think?
If you’ve been following Myrmecos this week, or bravely trying to, I apologize for the rough ride. An internal server error on September 4th derailed the site for a few days. The problem appears to be fixed, but we’ve lost several recent posts, including a superb guest post by myrmecologist Brendon Boudinot. I will have that back up in the next day or so, I hope.
Since everything was broken anyway, I didn’t see harm in experimenting with a new template for the blog. If you have a moment to comment, I’d appreciate your feedback:
1. Is the new site more or less aesthetically pleasing that the old site? How so?
2. Is tablet/cell phone viewing important enough to you that I should choose a cleaner template?
*update: I’ll be shifting through several new blog templates this week.
I am just about the worst blogger ever this week.
I’ve been out in the field around Illinois taking new photos (see right sidebar!) and neglecting my internet… um, responsibilities? Procrastinations? Whatever you call it. In any case, it’s far past time to answer Monday’s mystery.
[view Aphis nerii image in gallery]
The DNA sequence was a fragment from a carotenoid desaturase gene isolated from the oleander aphid, Aphis nerii. The fragment was obtained as part of a phylogenetic study pinning the origin of such genes in aphids to an ancient acquisition from fungi. Of the photographs I showed, only one aphid (B) had the brilliant yellow coloration of Aphis nerii.
Carotenoids are common pigments in plants, fungi, and other organisms. The color of carrots, for example, is due to carotenoids. But these useful molecules are notably missing from animals. When carotenoids turned up unexpectedly in aphids, their origin was something of a mystery until Nancy Moran’s research group figured out that aphid ancestors had somehow subsumed fungal carotenoid genes. A natural instance of genetic engineering, as it were.
6 points go to bioczw for getting to the correct ID first, and 4 points go to Guillaume D. for the fungal link.
Moran NA, Jarvik T. 2010. Lateral transfer of genes from fungi underlies carotenoid production in aphids. Science 328: 624-627. DOI: 10.1126/science.1187113
Nováková E, Moran NA. 2012. Diversification of genes for carotenoid biosynthesis in aphids following an ancient transfer from a fungus. Mol Bio Evol. 29: 313-323. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr206
Leading search terms for our humble little blog:
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, the barely-literate are apparently trying to get their hands on one of the most damaging pest insects of all time.
Portrait of a Belizean grasshopper.
The oddly contradictory activity of nature blogging means there are times when I actually have to leave the keyboard and go find some nature. This is one of those times! We’ll be off in the warm jungles of Belize for the next week or so holding BugShot’s first tropical insect photography workshop. Internet access will be spotty, so blogging will be slow to non-existent. All for a good cause, though.
Happy January everyone!
If you follow insect blogging, you surely recognize the pseudonymous “Bug Girl” as the pioneer of our little bug-blogging genre. So it’s a shock to see her crawling into a cocoon and putting her site on hold:
Eight years ago there were no bug blogs. Hell, there weren’t that many nature-related blogs. But today? There is an amazing amount of writing and media related to entomology online. Just look at my list–which is still incomplete. I discover new blogs daily.
I’ve been working on giving all of you a brain dump about how to dominate insect social media for the last couple of weeks because I have learned a LOT of stuff in the 7 years I’ve been blogging. I want all of you to benefit from that.
I’m not leaving forever! I’ll still post at Skepchick as Bug Girl, and I’ll still be socializing on social media–just not as much as in the past. I need to spend more time on things I do with my real name in the real world.
At the risk of editorializing too much, I’ll make a single comment.
Blogging has matured to academic respectability in recent years, and with its rise the gains from pseudonymous online activities are less than they used to be. Certain controversial topics and styles of writing remain most effective if done anonymously, of course, but a great deal of what Bug Girl writes about- her musings on insects and culture, her hilarious debunkings of sham products, her commentary on topical issues- could, in the present environment, be more effective under the heft of her actual name and credentials. This wasn’t the case when she started the bug blog, but it may be now.
I may be reading excessively into Bug Girl’s note, but I interpret the move as another symptom of a climate where online activities, far from being a hindrance, are integral to building a real-world career. Concealing one’s name does not allow one to reap the newfound benefits of a popular blog.
And one more comment. Personally, I’ve enjoyed Bug Girl’s online empire and wish her the best of luck in adapting her considerable skills to whatever it is she does next.
Although I wish I could regale you with spellbinding tales of courage, blood, and African ants, I’m on a tight turnaround as I prepare for the BugShot photo workshop in Florida next week. Thus, Myrmecos will remain slow until afterwards. For those of you attending the workshop, I am looking forward to meeting you soon!
In the meantime enjoy this perilampid wasp, surely among the most beautiful of insects.
A parasitic wasps alights on a tree branch in Kibale Forest, Uganda.
Tomorrow morning I and other ant researchers head to the famous annual Ant Course, held this year at the Makerere University Biological Field Station in Kibale, Uganda. It’s been a few years since my last participation at Ant Course. I’ve never been to that part of the world before, and I’m excited to see some old friends. Plus, the ant fauna looks…enticing. If all goes well I’ll finally get shots of the spectacular surface-raiding Dorylus driver ants.
Another tropical adventure, however, means I won’t be keeping up with the blogging. Myrmecos will be on vacation for the next couple weeks, but it’s all in the name of spicing this place up with crazy African insects when I return.
Happy August, everyone!