It was at the XIV international meeting of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects in 2002 that the “gang of four” decided to join forces to reconstruct the phylogenetic history of ants using molecular data. Four years later Brady et al. 2006 was published.
Just as the anterior margin of an ant’s cranium can sometimes be armed with rows of dentiform clypeal setae (that is, especially modified hairs), the lid that closes the insect’s mouth called labrum can bear identical structures. The image above shows two of these specialized teeth-like pieces (in red) flanking an empty broad socket where a third piece used to be inserted.
In the preface of his 1956 classic Anatomy of the Honey Bee1 the great American entomologist Robert E. Snodgrass explains the book’s title:
First, it must be explained why the name of the bee appears in the title as two words, though “honeybee” is the customary form in the literature of apiculture. Regardless of dictionaries, we have in entomology a rule for insect common names that can be followed. It says: If the insect is what its name implies, write the two words separately; otherwise run them together. Thus we have such names as house fly, blow fly, and robber fly contrasted with dragonfly, caddicefly, and butterfly, because the latter are not flies, just as an aphislion is not a lion and a silverfish is not a fish. The honey bee is an insect and is pre-eminently a bee; “honeybee” is equivalent to “Johnsmith.” [vii]
- Snodgrass, R. E. 1956. Anatomy of the Honey Bee. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, New York. ↩
Everybody likes popular science stories with clear and simple eureka moments. In the case of Charles Darwin’s theory of Evolution his voyage on board the H.M.S. Beagle and exploration of the Galapagos archipelago usually serves for such narrative purpose.
The recent description of the new and unusual ant species from Brazil Martialis heureka, caused furor in the popular media. It was entertaining to watch how, like the children’s game of Chinese whispers, the report rapidly deteriorated and became increasingly sensationalistic as it spun through news agencies around the globe. Reports ranged from accurate and informative to down right silly, with some newspapers almost claiming that the species actually originated in Mars (You can read more about it at Myrmecos blog and comments therein).
I have to say, I appreciate the medias attention to insect science no matter how distorted it gets. But now that the news storm has settle we can point out some other good news about Rabeling, Brown, and Verhaagh’s paper. News that may not make for a good newspaper headline but that are nevertheless relevant to specialists in ant systematics. › Continue reading
- Tom Waits