Ho, Ho, Ho?

Friday, December 25th, 2009 | Ants, Humor | 2 Comments

This is my reply to the nice image by myrmecos.


Tags: , ,

Leafcutter ant of the genus… Paraponera?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 | Ants, Humor | 11 Comments


Hey look, it’s a picture of a leafcutter ant! And it’s carrying a leaf using its… antennas, that are missing the distal part (wha?). And it has an odd ball-something between the mandibles, and a stick-like thing stuck in the rear foot. And the ant belong to a species not even closely related to true leafcutter ants. It’s, it’s… it’s Photoshop gone wrong. › Continue reading

Tags: ,

Ants are a dominant feature of terrestrial ecosystems

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 | Ants, Humor | Comments Off on Ants are a dominant feature of terrestrial ecosystems

Ants are a dominant feature of terrestrial ecosystems (and variations thereof).

Sigh. Myrmecologists really need to find alternative opening phrases for abstracts, grants and papers. Myself included.


Ross Crozier, pioneer in the study of genetics in social insects, died on November 12th, aged 66

Friday, November 13th, 2009 | Ants, Personalities | Comments Off on Ross Crozier, pioneer in the study of genetics in social insects, died on November 12th, aged 66
Ross Crozier (© Alex Wild 2009)

Ross Crozier (© Alex Wild 2009)

He represented all things genetic within the study of ants an other social insects. Over the years, countless of students will pass through his laboratory in way of becoming great researchers and mentors themselves.

When in 2006 the International Union for the Study of Social Insects instituted the Hamilton Award, in recognition of outstanding contribution to the field by senior scientists, Ross Crozier became its first recipient.

I had meet Prof. Crozier just briefly at scientific meetings before, but I was very lucky to sit down with him and a handful of other myrmecologists over lunch one day during a short visit he made to Harvard in 2008.

James Cook University, his academic home, has published the following obituary:

One of Australia’s leading biological scientists Professor Ross Crozier has died in Townsville. He was world renowned for his contributions to evolutionary theory, behavioural biology and to genetics.

An Australian Research Council Professorial fellow based at James Cook University, Professor Crozier was a world leader in the study of social insects.

> Continue reading here

Alex Wild has written some notes about Crozier and his visit to the Field Museum in Chicago the previous week.


Evolution and development of castes in ants

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 | Ants, Comparative Anatomy, Morphology, Theory | 6 Comments

Manica - castesUp until resuming posting a couple of weeks ago you may had thought I was dead. Well, fear not (nor rejoice just yet). I am now happy to report that those previous months of blogging slowness paid off: I got funding for the project I wrote during the summer.

Starting next year I will be working as a postdoc in the laboratory of Patrícia Beldade at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Portugal. This is an evolutionary developmental biology lab, an area of research fondly know as EvoDevo.

EvoDevo ask questions that are of a different nature than the classical Neo-Darwinian ones. For example, in the latter you always presuppose that variation exists in populations and that there is a link between what you see at the level of an organism’s morphology (its phenotype) and the underlying genetics (its genotype), and you study how natural selection then goes to mess things around. In EvoDevo you don’t give these things for granted. Rather, you ask how do new features (novelties and innovations) arise in the first place and exactly how does the link between genotype and phenotype comes about through the developmental process. From there, what you seek is to understand evolution as a process of modification of development.

› Continue reading

Tags: , ,

Homology Weekly: Compound Eyes

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 | Ants, Comparative Anatomy, Homology Weekly, Morphology | 9 Comments

iGigantiops destructor/i (Michael Branstetter -

Gigantiops destructor (via Michael Branstetter -

The lateral eyes of adult insects (and most Arthropods) known as compound eyes, are like no other visual organs found in animals. You can think of our vertebrate eye as a simplified, one-lens photographic camera with a sensor composed of millions of light sensitive cells (and a blind spot, mind you). Well, that’s nothing. Each insects eye is composed of several small photographic cameras, each with its own lens and light sensitive cells (albeit, commonly only six of these). These units are called ommatidia (sing. ommatidium), and the image if formed by the combined information from all of them.1

› Continue reading

  1. To be honest, I have never know if this visual organ is called compound eye because it is composed of several ommatidia or because each ommatidium is composed of several elements. This has never disturb my sleep though.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Queen of Formicidae

Friday, October 9th, 2009 | Ants, Art | 2 Comments

Hail Queen of Formicidae, ruler of all ant species! (that’s 12,591 species as of today if you ask)

Queen of Formicidae by Y Ikeda
Via Queen of Formicidae by ~Y-Ikeda on deviantART.


Homology Weekly: Mandible Adductor Apodemes

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 | Ants, Comparative Anatomy, Homology Weekly, Morphology | 7 Comments
The unusual mandible closer apodeme (left one in the pair) of species in the Odontomachini genus group. Disected out and cleared from all muscles (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

The unusual hook-shaped mandible closer apodeme (left one in the pair) of species in the Odontomachini genus group (Anochetus emarginatus pictured here). Piece dissected out and cleared from all muscles (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

Last August, before taking a break from blogging, I posted an impossible-to-answer trivia. It consisted of the image above depicting an unidentified mysterious skeletal piece (sclerite) in the shape of a hook, together with two key pieces of information: a) it is entirely internal; b) it comes in pairs. › Continue reading

Tags: , , , ,

Parachuting to the ground

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 | Ants, Art, Behavior | Comments Off on Parachuting to the ground

It is a wonderful photograph, but what really caught my attention is the author’s description of it on the published caption.

Moldovan photographer, Bolucevschi Vitali, has won the title of CIWEM’s Environmental Photographer of the Year 2009. His picture, Talking About Stars, also won the Natural World category. Only 24 years old, the amateur photographer described how he was able to take his winning image: “On a sunny day I took a camera and set out to photograph something of the life of ants. At first I was no good as the ants moved very quickly and I was easily distracted. But gradually I was drawn to a group which was climbing up a nearby dandelion. They would each pull out one seed and then parachute to the ground”

They are Formica ants or “wood ants”. Can’t tell which species from here.

via CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year 2009 competition winners – Telegraph.

Update September 16th, 2009: A friend of mine ask me if the ants were really parachuting and if I had heard of this behavior before. The answer was that I had never heard of this before, but my guess is that the ant just pulls the seed out forcefully and falls to the ground, seed in mouth, as it looses her balance. A beautiful accident.

A Wilson moment

Saturday, June 27th, 2009 | Ants, Personalities | 5 Comments
Book signing at the AMNH, June 14th, 2006. The happy fellow to the right is yours truly.

Book signing by E. O. Wilson at the AMNH. The smiling fellow to the right is yours truly.

Back in June 14th, 2006, Edward O. Wilson delivered a public talk at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (the transcript of which can be read here) on the occasion of his then recently published anthology Nature Revealed: Selected Writings, 1949-2006. I wasn’t going to miss the event, and went to the public section of the museum down from the Ivory Tower research floor of the Division of Invertebrate Zoology.

› Continue reading


Subscribe: Entries | Comments
And as we discussed last semester, the Army Ants will leave nothing but your bones.
- Tom Waits