Archive for December, 2008

The worst hangover I ever had

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 | Humor, Publishing, Science | 3 Comments

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



Homology Weekly: Hypopygium

Friday, December 12th, 2008 | Ants, Comparative Anatomy, Homology Weekly, Morphology | 2 Comments

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.

Abdomen of a Leptogenys sp worker from Nepal, profile view (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

Abdomen of a Leptogenys sp worker from Nepal, profile view (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

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Science Commons

Thursday, December 11th, 2008 | Science, Web | 1 Comment

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 and 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

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Giant Bronze Ants

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 | Ants, Art | Comments Off on Giant Bronze Ants

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.

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Homology Weekly: Acidopore

Thursday, December 4th, 2008 | Ants, Homology Weekly, Morphology | 5 Comments
Acidopore of a <em>Formica fusca</em> worker (Scaning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

Acidopore of a Formica fusca worker (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

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

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