Archive for September, 2009

Spider silk on display

Friday, September 25th, 2009 | Education, Science | Comments Off on Spider silk on display

… at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.


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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

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The Search

Friday, September 18th, 2009 | Humor | Comments Off on The Search

via xkcd – A Webcomic – The Search.


Annie Liebowitz to the arthropods

Friday, September 18th, 2009 | Art, Humor, Personalities | 2 Comments

Sorry, with apologies to my colleague and fellow blogger Alex, I just couldn’t let this one pass. [/giggle]

Alex Wild, Annie Liebowitz to the arthropods” – Carl Zimmer

via Beautifying Bedbugs | The Loom | Discover Magazine.


Myrmecoid – New on my Blogroll

Thursday, September 17th, 2009 | Metablogging | Comments Off on Myrmecoid – New on my Blogroll

I don’t think there is any argument about the fact that ants are the coolest creatures to ever put foot on this planet insects around. But in case you are still not convinced just think about all those insects that either try to look like ants or make whatever possible to hang out with the cool.

On that note, Taro Eldredge is a former Cornell University undergrad that just moved to the University of Kansas to start graduate studies and just moved his blog to WordPress (btw, what would be the opposite of a double wammy?). His research interest is in staphylinid beetles of the sort that live as guest of ant and termite colonies.

Check out his blog at Myrmecoid – ??????

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PNAS will eliminate Communicated submissions in July 2010

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 | Publishing, Science | Comments Off on PNAS will eliminate Communicated submissions in July 2010

PNAScoverI have a strong feeling the following editorial in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS, USA) is in direct response to the (backstage) outcry generated over publication policies by the publication of the peculiar paper communicated by Lynn Margulis just over three weeks ago (for example here).

To clarify, I don’t have an opinion on the issue of publication policies used by the National Academy of Sciences.

PNAS will eliminate Communicated submissions in July 2010

1. Randy Schekman, Editor-in-Chief

As of July 1, 2010, PNAS will no longer allow the submission of papers “Communicated” to the journal by NAS members and will instead handle these papers as Direct Submissions. Authors are free to ask an NAS member to edit their paper as a “Prearranged Editor” prior to submission to PNAS. Assignments are handled by the Editorial Board, and members who agree in principle to edit a paper are given special consideration by the board. NAS member contributions are not affected by this policy change.

You can read the full text at PNAS’ site.

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.


Friday, September 4th, 2009 | Ontogeny, Phylogeny, Theory | 5 Comments

Can someone please tell me if August 28th is the equivalent of “April’s fool day” somewhere in the world? This paper just published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) reads like something coming out straight from The Onion:

Published online before print August 28, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0908357106

Caterpillars evolved from onychophorans by hybridogenesis

Donald I. Williamson
Marine Biology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZB, United Kingdom

I reject the Darwinian assumption that larvae and their adults evolved from a single common ancestor. Rather I posit that, in animals that metamorphose, the basic types of larvae originated as adults of different lineages, i.e., larvae were transferred when, through hybridization, their genomes were acquired by distantly related animals. “Caterpillars,” the name for eruciforms with thoracic and abdominal legs, are larvae of lepidopterans, hymenopterans, and mecopterans (scorpionflies). Grubs and maggots, including the larvae of beetles, bees, and flies, evolved from caterpillars by loss of legs. Caterpillar larval organs are dismantled and reconstructed in the pupal phase. Such indirect developmental patterns (metamorphoses) did not originate solely by accumulation of random mutations followed by natural selection; rather they are fully consistent with my concept of evolution by hybridogenesis. Members of the phylum Onychophora (velvet worms) are proposed as the evolutionary source of caterpillars and their grub or maggot descendants. I present a molecular biological research proposal to test my thesis. By my hypothesis 2 recognizable sets of genes are detectable in the genomes of all insects with caterpillar grub- or maggot-like larvae: (i) onychophoran genes that code for proteins determining larval morphology/physiology and (ii) sequentially expressed insect genes that code for adult proteins. The genomes of insects and other animals that, by contrast, entirely lack larvae comprise recognizable sets of genes from single animal common ancestors.

I think Lynn Margulis went too far this time…

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