Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Zut alors! This blog seems to have developed a following of Frenchmen. The shame of it is, I studied French for 5 years in High School and don’t remember a word of it.

The French ant-enthusiast forum Acideformik looks like a fine place to hang out on the intra-webs. Most online myrmecology forums are populated by 12 year-olds relating their experiences fighting red and black ants, or trying to trade in their allowance to import a colony of exotic bulldog ants (to kick the butts of both red and black ants, I gather). However, the French are over there having book discussions and contemplating the finer points of petiolar morphology. I’m jealous.

New Species: Idioneurula donegani

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Idioneurula donegani Huertas & Arias 2007

 

 

Huertas, B. and J. J. Arias. 2007. A new butterfly species from the Colombian Andes and a review of the taxonomy of the genera Idioneurula Strand, 1932 and Tamania Pyrcz, 1995 (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae). Zootaxa 1652: 27-40.

The online journal Zootaxa has hosted the publication of 6723 new animal species since its inception in 2001, averaging over 2.8 new species per day. And that’s just a single journal- there are scores of taxonomy journals out there. Taxonomy is an old science, but it remains on the frontiers of biological discovery.

New Species: Mystrium maren

 

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Mystrium maren Bihn & Verhaagh 2007

Discoveries of new species on our little-known planet continue apace. The two known specimens of the impressively toothy Mystrium maren were collected in 2001 in Indonesia, and Jochen Bihn and Manfred Verhaagh just published a paper in Zootaxa describing this ant and another new species, M.leonie.

Source: J. H. Bihn & M. Verhaagh, 2007. A review of the genus Mystrium (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Indo-Australian region. Zootaxa 1642: 1-12.

 

*update* Lead author Jochen Bihn writes about the paper on Trophallaxis Blog.

Microscopes

PZ Myers gives an excellent holiday gift suggestion for aspiring scientists: a microscope.

To fully appreciate the small animals around us, they must be visualized on their own scale. For the uninitiated, the first glance of live insects through a microscope can be shocking. My favorite description comes from myrmecologist Deby Cassill, recalling her introduction to fire ants: (more…)

New photos on myrmecos.net

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If I had to pick a favorite myrmicine ant, I’d go with the heavily armored Neotropical genus Cephalotes. These arboreal ants are typically thought of as rainforest canopy dwellers, but we have a desert species here in Arizona, Cephalotes rohweri, that is the northernmost species in an otherwise tropical genus. They nest in abandoned beetle burrows in the dead wood of living Palo Verde trees.

 

Earlier this month, myrmecologist Scott Powell was in town to scope out a potential research project on our local populations. Scott has been studying how the nesting ecology of these ants drives the evolution of the highly-specialized soldier caste, focusing on populations in Brazil, but is looking to expand his project to include other species. By the looks of it, C. rohweri will make a fine experimental system. Scott was kind enough to let me photograph a few of the colonies he brought into the lab for some preliminary studies, and this morning I uploaded a few of them to the galleries at myrmecos.net:

 

http://www.myrmecos.net/new.html

 

Incidentally, it turns out that the best way to bait Cephalotes is to urinate on a tree. I’m not making this up. There’s something about urine that attracts the workers.