Archive for November, 2009

Whose insect cabinet is on display at the AMNH?

Monday, November 30th, 2009 | History of Science, Personalities | 5 Comments
© D. Finnin/AMNH

© D. Finnin/AMNH

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) has currently on display a cabinet with a collection of specimens thought to belong to Alfred Russell Wallace, the great Victorian naturalist considered to be the father of biogeography and co-discover of natural selection. The cabinet currently belongs to a private owner who purchased it from an antique dealer in Arlington, Va. in 1979.

The New York Times has a piece with the story of this find that explains the cabinet’s importance: prior to this discovery, it was thought that the only existing Wallace collection consisted of the fewer specimens housed at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London. › Continue reading


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A Virus Walks Into a Bar…

Thursday, November 26th, 2009 | Humor, Science | 1 Comment

If you find the next series of jokes funny (I do), try going out for a stroll at the shopping mall or whatever less science-obsessed people normally do. It gets from awkward to real good at about 1:00.


150 years of On the Origin of Species

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 | History of Science | 2 Comments

On the Origin of Species

This is my copy of Charles Darwin book On the Origin of Species published 150 years ago today. It is the ugliest-looking book I have in my collection. It doesn’t matter. It is the seventeenth printing of a facsimile of the 1859 original edition that Ernst Mayr, the prominent twentieth century evolutionary biologist, first produced in 1964 to provide mass access to a book that “ushered in a new era in our thinking about the nature of man” (p. vii). › Continue reading

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The Snodgrass Tapes

Snodgrass Tapes

Here is a hidden treasure in the web.

Robert E. Snodgrass was an American entomologist who published extensively on arthropod anatomy and evolution during the first half of the twentieth century. He was as knowledgeable about arthropod morphology as he was a superb artist– you can see some of his illustrations decorating the banner of this blog. His name is synonymous with insect morphology: his 1935 textbook on the subject (reedited by Cornell University Press in 1993) is still the main reference for any modern course in entomology.

Snodgrass was a lecturer in the University of Maryland for most of his academic life. In 1960, two years before his death, he gave a series of three lectures that were recorded in audio tape. Fortunately for us Jeffrey W. Shultz, professor of entomology at Maryland, has digitized and made these lectures available through a nicely designed page called The Snodgrass Tapes. › Continue reading


Archetype turns one year old

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 | Administrative, Metablogging | 11 Comments

roberto kellerI have now been keeping this blog for as long as it takes the Earth to makes a full revolution around the Sun. And for some strange cultural reason, this entitles me to reflect about it.

It has been a highly enjoyable experience so far. My readership has grown beyond my modest expectations, currently averaging about 100 visitors a day. I have gotten the most traffic whenever one of the much more popular bloggers direct readers to this site– this has been specially so everytime I get the Myrmecos bump, but there are a few other people to thank.

When I started, I decided that if I could post at least once a week I would be satisfied (so far the case). › Continue reading


Portuguese Evolutionary Biology Meeting- December 21st, 2009

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 | Education, Science | 1 Comment

Since I am in the neighborhood:

VENBElogoWe are please to announce that the 5th Portuguese Evolutionary Biology Meeting will take place at Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada (ISPA) in Lisbon on December 21st 2009. It is being organized by Unidade de Investigação em Eco-etologia and Centro de Biociências do ISPA (Rua Jardim do Tabaco, 34, Lisbon).

The Portuguese Evolutionary Biology Meetings aim to bring together Portuguese researchers and to promote Evolutionary Biology in Portugal. They are held in late December to allow researchers in foreign institutions to attend, given that many spend their Winter break in Portugal.

› Continue reading


Postdoc postion in beetle morphology/taxonomy

Saturday, November 14th, 2009 | Education, Science | Comments Off on Postdoc postion in beetle morphology/taxonomy

I’m reposting this job announcement here:
Eleodes obscurus

The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE), Arizona State University (ASU), invites applications and nominations for a postdoc available January 1, 2010. Duties include dissections, descriptions, and digital illustrations of beetles for print and Web publications, participating in the Institute team working on various cybertaxonomy initiatives, and supporting the research of the director, currently including taxonomic studies of Eleodes (Coleoptera, Tenebrionidae).

ASU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. Submit statement of interest, CV, and names/email addresses of three references to: Quentin Wheeler, Vice President and Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University. Please submit electronically to with subject line Morphology Postdoc. Review of candidates will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.

› Continue reading

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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

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More dinosaur than we thought

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 | Comparative Anatomy, Phylogeny | Comments Off on More dinosaur than we thought

Familiar to many, you can know how old a tree is and how fast it has grown by counting the number of rings in a cross section. Well, you can do the same with the long bones of vertebrates.

Now Gregory M. Erickson and co-workers published a paper in which they did just that to a specimen of one of the most famous fossil forms around: Archaeopterix. Watch Mark Norell, paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History and co-author of the paper, explain the results:

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