My colleague Corrie S. Moreau, Assistant Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, got interviewed by ScienceWatch.com in occasion of her highly cited paper in Science published back in 2006.
It’s a nice interview, but I have a couple of reservations though. She states that:
This well-resolved phylogeny reinforced some previous hypotheses about the morphological evolution of the ants, but we also were able to demonstrate that the modification or reduction of the stinger happened twice independently within the ants.
By twice she refers to subfamilies Dolichoderinae and Formicinae which, true they are characterized by extensive reduction and disarticulation of the sting apparatus or complete disappearance of it respectively, so that the finding that they are not sister groups entails that loss of sting ocurred independently in the common ancestor of each clade. But there are various other parts of the ant tree where the sting is reduced and useless as a weapon, so this was known to happen more than twice even before molecular phylogenies were out. Think the army ant Dorylus and the myrmicine genus Cephalotes (turtle ants) just to name a couple of examples.
The other is Cories’ reply to the question:
Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?
Because here I was really, really hoping that instead of her actual answer she would had said something like “Biological weapons of course! Just think of the Alien series of movies.”
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- Tom Waits