Archive for December, 2008
I did my undergraduate studies in Biology at UNAM in Mexico City. While this institution holds the best science libraries in the country, there was always the odd paper I couldn’t find, especially when it came to insect taxonomy with its plethora of obscure journals. Add to this that electronic journals had yet to come into existence (it’s not that I am old, they are really a very recent phenomenon).
Back then, getting papers in the subject of one’s interest consisted in meticulously thumbing through the heavy telephone books for animals called Zoological Records*, writing down some potentially useful references, and filling a petition for copies at a special place in campus that dealt with international inter-library loans. After that, you only had to wait a couple of weeks to get photocopies of some papers that were not quite what you were looking for. It felt like I was doing some serious research nevertheless. › Continue reading
Last week’s post featured the acidopore: a modification of the ventral plate in the last visible segment of the abdomen in females, as it occurs in the formicine subfamily of ants (e.g., wood ants, carpenter ants, weaver ants). Counting from front to back, this ventral plate is part of the seventh abdominal segment and is denoted by a special term in insects: hypopygium (pl. hypopygia). It is colored in red in the images below.
You may have seen many websites making their content freely available under a version of the Creative Commons License (the taxonomic data, images and publications stored in antbase.org and antweb.org are good examples). Creative Commons has now launched a special project specific for the enhancement of science through the web called Science Commons: › Continue reading
Artist Susan P. Cochran has created a fascinating set of giant ants as part of her insect series of bronze sculptures.
I particularly like the balance between anatomical detail and artistic interpretation, as one can recognize in the sculptures all the essential characteristics of an ant.
Part of her inspiration, she explains, comes from the social nature of ants, something she reflects in the composition of an egg-laying queen being attended by three workers.
The impression in real life must be fantastic. I hope some Museum of Natural History of similar research institution decides to purchase and display some of this work at their entrance yard.
It is popular knowledge that ants secrete formic acid. What most people don’t know is that only a well-defined subgroup of species have this capacity. Female ants in the subfamily Formicinae have an acid producing gland that sprays its content through a special opening at the rear end of their abdomens, aptly called the acidopore. › Continue reading
- Tom Waits