From the archive

Monday, May 31st, 2010 | Ants, Personalities | 1 Comment

Donat Agosti at the Muséum d'histoire naturelle de la Ville de Genève, Switzerland. 2003

Swiss myrmecologist and pioneer cybertaxonomist, Donat Agosti digitizes a drawer from Auguste Forel ant collection at Geneva.



Ants on Télé-Québec

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 | Ants, Ontogeny, Personalities | 1 Comment

Télé-Québec, Canada, aired on March 23 a small documentary of the ant research done by the laboratory of Ehab Abouheif, from McGill University. Abouheif lab looks at ant evolution from a still unusual developmental perspective.

It is worth watching, even thought I can’t embed it here, so you will have to watch it on their site (together with the advertisements, of course). And, if you don’t speak French, don’t worry, you’re not alone…

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From the archive

The gang-of-four ready to take over the ant world. From left: Philip Ward, Seán Brady, Ted Schultz and Brian Fisher at the IUSSI congress in Sapporo, Japan.

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.

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The oldest known [cough… African… cough] ant

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 | Ants, Metablogging, Publishing, Science, Web | 8 Comments

Here’s a perfect example of what I like about blogs becoming an integral communication tool for the scientific community and interested folks alike:

Cretaceous African ant in amber (Courtesy of Vincent Perrichot via

  1. A peer-review paper gets published;
  2. The media gets hold on the story;
  3. The blogs react: scientists and general public fill the comments section (in the genuine tone of the internets);
  4. The authors of the original paper join in the discussion.

Discussion may get heated, comments may get bitter, but the results are always rewarding for all.


Weightlifting ants

Friday, February 19th, 2010 | Ants, Behavior, Education, Science | 3 Comments
Oecophylla smaragdina

"Oecophylla smaragdina can carry more than 100 times its own body weight while upside down on a smooth surface, thanks to its sticky feet." Image: Thomas Endlein, University of Cambridge via NewScientist

NewScientist posted photographs from the competition held by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to showcase images of their latest research. In a single iconic image, the first one shows the weight that an ant is capable of carrying and how strong the suction devices in her feet are.

I have blogged about these adhesive devices in the ant’s feets before (called arolia in leet speak, singular arolium), and the very first image I used back then happens to be from the same ant species in the image above.

Foot of a Oecophylla smaragdina worker. Pretarsal claws and manubrium in red; arolium in yellow; tarsi in green (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

(h/t to P. Beldade)

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Corrie S. Moreau interviewed by

Monday, February 8th, 2010 | Ants, Personalities, Science | 3 Comments

Ready to rock.

My colleague Corrie S. Moreau, Assistant Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, got interviewed by in occasion of her highly cited paper in Science published back in 2006.

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Homology weekly: Prognathy

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 | Ants, Comparative Anatomy, Homology Weekly, Morphology | 6 Comments

I am going to take advantage of figures I prepared for a talk I gave recently, where I had to explain a diagnostic characteristic of ants during the introduction. As I have mentioned before, ants are peculiar among wasps and bees in that their mouthparts are directed forward, rather than downward, in a condition known as prognathy (pro-, anterior, projecting; –gnathus, jaw).

Hypognathus condition in insects (left image from Wikimedia commons; right drawing modified after Snodgrass 1935)

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The good old days of entomological journals

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 | Ants, Humor | 1 Comment

Yes, the discrete logo appeared at the front of each research article.

The articles may have been long, descriptive and rather dull (although important), but boy did they made up for it with crazy typography in the journal’s logo!


Three legs (at any given time) are better than any other number

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Ants, Behavior | Comments Off on Three legs (at any given time) are better than any other number

Blogging has been at the bottom of my list of priorities as I adjust to my new research institution this month. Add a week away visiting colleagues in Paris [yeah, I’m adding this just for bragging purposes] and you will understand the lack of posts.

In the past couple of days I have been doing some background literature research on the topic of insect walking. What I did not know is how big this field is compared to other topics in entomology. The reason behind this popularity is, unsurprisingly, the fact that the results of such research have a direct technological application: robotics. In particular six legged robots or hexabots (they should be called something like hexapodbots, but I guess the shorter name is cooler).

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Ants, bees, wasps and everything nice

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 | Ants, Science, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Ants, bees, wasps and everything nice

The 7th International Congress of Hymenopterists will be held this year in Köszeg, Hungary, on June 20th to 26th. This meeting is organized by the International Society of Hymenopterists, which meets every four years to bring together the people doing research on sawflies, wasps, bees and ants around the globe. I’ll say these meetings are generally more heavily oriented towards systematic and ecological type of studies (is there anything else to know about?).

Now, the fact that the registration fee includes ethanol and ethyl acetate (for preserving the locally collected fauna) should tell you something about the level of geekiness of the crown that normally attends these meetings. But, it’s professional geekiness mind you.

You can find more information here (pdf).

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