Search Results for: pheidole

Breaking News: The Pheidologeny!

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Out today is a preprint version (subscription only) of Corrie Moreau’s Pheidole phylogeny. At first glance this seems a nice piece of work: the evolutionary history of one of the world’s most diverse ant genera inferred from 140 species and 5 genes.

This is some extremely cool ant evolution research, and the first salvo from the nascent Pheidole working group. Once I get a chance to digest all 50+ pages I’ll post the highlights.

source: Moreau, C. S. 2008. Unraveling the Evolutionary History of the Hyperdiverse Ant Genus Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, In Press, Accepted Manuscript.

Evolution of Genome Size in Ants

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Meet Ectatomma tuberculatum. This tropical insect has the largest genome of 40 species of ants measured in a study by Neil Tsutsui et al in BioMed Central. Weighing in at 690 megabases, E. tuberculatum has nearly twice as much DNA as most other ant species, leading the authors to suggest that a whole genome duplication occurred somewhere in the line of Ectatommine ancestry.

Tsutsui et al’s study, released today, is the first comprehensive genomic survey across ants. What’s more, it is open access. You can read the whole thing here:

Evolution of Genome Size in Ants

Summary: Here, we report the genome size for 40 species of ants distributed across 10 of the 20 currently recognized subfamilies, thus making Formicidae the 4th most surveyed insect family and elevating the Hymenoptera to the 5th most surveyed insect order. Our analysis spans much of the ant phylogeny, from the less derived Amblyoponinae and Ponerinae to the more derived Myrmicinae, Formicinae and Dolichoderinae. We include a number of interesting and important taxa, including the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), Neotropical army ants (genera Eciton and Labidus), trapjaw ants (Odontomachus), fungus-growing ants (Apterostigma, Atta and Sericomyrmex), harvester ants (Messor, Pheidole and Pogonomyrmex), carpenter ants (Camponotus), a fire ant (Solenopsis), and a bulldog ant (Myrmecia). Our results show that ants possess small genomes relative to most other insects, yet genome size varies three-fold across this insect family. Moreover, our data suggest that two whole-genome duplications may have occurred in the ancestors of the modern Ectatomma and Apterostigma. Although some previous studies of other taxa have revealed a relationship between genome size and body size, our phylogenetically-controlled analysis of this correlation did not reveal a significant relationship.

Is iStockphoto ruining the insect photo business?

The rise of microstock photography has many established photographers wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth over how microstock companies are destroying the business.

What is microstock? It is a relatively new internet-based business model that licenses existing images for scandalously low prices. Traditionally, images are licensed through highly selective stock agencies for amounts in the hundreds of dollars or so, but microstock turns everything upside-down, moving images for just pennies each. Microstock companies aren’t choosy about the images they peddle, as they need vast quantities of stock for their business model to work. By allowing anyone to upload photos, they’ve dropped nearly every barrier to entry into the photo licensing business aside from the cost of a camera itself. And those get cheaper every year. A deluge of digital hobbyists is now competing with the pros, and the pros aren’t happy.

As a portion of my income derives from traditional photo licensing, I’ve been curious for some time about how competition from microstock affects my bottom line. This weekend I devoted a few hours at the computer to comparing the holdings of a number of stock agencies, both traditional and micro, to get a handle on whether I ought to be worried about this new phenomenon.

The answer, it turns out, is no.

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The Rogue Taxonomist

Warning: long ranty post to follow.

Taxonomy is an unusual discipline in the balance it strikes between legal and scientific concepts. There’s the obvious biology bit about discovering and defining taxa, but unlike any other science there’s a backbone of legalistic code that regulates the dynamics of names. If you’re the sort who really digs dry legal documents, you can read the zoological code here and the botanical code here. The codes are largely concerned with nomenclature, dealing with issues such as the proper hierarchy of ranks, and resolving conflict among competing names. For instance, the code decides what happens when two people independently describe the same biological species with different names. The short of it is that taxonomists, like courts, must deal with precedent. They are bound by the code to consider all relevant previous publications.

Because of the importance of precedent, taxonomy is uniquely vulnerable to crackpots. When such a person surfaces, the schlop he produces cannot just be dismissed as the rantings of some hare-brained loner. (more…)