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 ScienceWatch.com

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 ScienceWatch.com 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!


Blogging at its rawness

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 | Education, Science, Technique | Comments Off on Blogging at its rawness

Weirdbuglady stuffs a real animal for a change, and shows us the whole process with detail pictures.

Finger puppet!

I agree with her, preparing animals that have the skeleton on the outside is way easier and much more cleaner.


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 K√∂szeg, 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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More on the insect cabinet on display at the AMNH

Friday, January 1st, 2010 | History of Science, Personalities, Uncategorized | Comments Off on More on the insect cabinet on display at the AMNH

I previously wrote about a beautiful insect cabinet currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History thought to belong to naturalists Alfred Russell Wallace. I also noted that George Beccaloni, from the the Natural History Museum in London, holds that the cabinet may not be Wallace’s on account of some pieces of evidence, including the differences in shape between the labels of the AMNH cabinet and that of known Wallace’s specimens at the NHM.

Now Beccaloni provides further evidence to back his opinion in the form of a letter written by Wallace to Walter Bates in 1846. Read for yourself and decide.

Oh, and a happy new year to all the readers of this blog!

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Ho, Ho, Ho?

Friday, December 25th, 2009 | Ants, Humor | 2 Comments

This is my reply to the nice image by myrmecos.

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Not yet winter break for me

Friday, December 18th, 2009 | Administrative, Comparative Anatomy | Comments Off on Not yet winter break for me

Forget the Friday winter break parties at the workplace, I’m stuck at home preparing slides for a short talk I’ll be giving on Monday. I’m not complaining though. This is the Portuguese meeting on evolutionary biology I mentioned earlier. The odd date (the 21st of December for the past four years) is to accommodate all the nationals pursuing Ph.D.s and postdocs abroad that come home during the holidays.

The meeting is organized by young researches, and this year will be specially interesting because there will be a discussion about creating a national society of evolutionary biologists.

I will be talking about the evolution of mouthparts within ants, covering some fascinating new discoveries that I haven’t share here yet but will blog about some time in the near future. In the mean time, here are a couple of my slides.

Media sources: antweb.org; Roberto Keller/AMNH.

Media sources: antweb.org; Roberto Keller/AMNH.

Media sources: Wiki Commons; Alex Wild (http://www.alexanderwild.com/); R.E. Snodgrass 1935.

Media sources: Wiki Commons; Alex Wild (http://www.alexanderwild.com/); R.E. Snodgrass 1935.

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