How fleas jump, in slow motion:
(via Discovery News)
If I had to make a list of strangest-looking insects, I’d include Madagascar’s giraffe-necked weevils. From the BBC:
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.
If you’ve ever wondered what we entomologists do all day, Monty Python has the answer:
(Yes, I’m in a punchy mood today. I’ve got a raging grade-A cold, half my body weight is made up of sinus fluid, and I haven’t been able to breathe since Friday. So all you’re getting is snark.)
Last year army ant guru Carl Rettenmeyer posthumously published a paper documenting the tremendous diversity of animals associated with Eciton burchellii. Over 500, in fact. Eciton burchellii has a larger known entourage than any other species of animal.
Although Eciton‘s associates are the best documented, all army ant species have them. Ant colonies represent a tremendous concentration of resources, and animals that have figured out how to subvert the ants’ communication systems gain access to rich stores of food.
This week’s Friday beetle features a few of the coleopterous army ant associates I encountered on my recent trip to Ecuador. I haven’t yet had the time to identify them beyond family (they’re all Staphylinidiae), but feel free to share your knowledge in the comments.
Finally, let’s play Spot-That-Beetle:
Did you see it?
From the magical cloud forests of Maquipucuna, a short video of an Eciton raiding party transporting their prey back to the bivouac:
Recording these clips entailed several hundred stings, so I’ve removed the original soundtrack of me cursing heavily and have replaced it with soothing ambient sounds of the Ecuadorian forest.
This behind-the-scenes BBC video has all my favorite things. Charismatic insects, face time with a knowledgeable scientist, narration by David Attenborough, and spectacular cinematography. And, a crossbow. I think I enjoyed it more than the actual film.