Sunday, 27 April 2008
I only had a small amount of contact with Roy, so I won't say too much. I met him on the Ant Course in Cairns, 2006 and had some email contact with him afterwards. He was a brilliant man with a wicked sense of humour, so I liked him right away, as I expect most people did.
He was also very generous with his expertise: he resolved the identity of some problem Rhoptromyrmex from Queensland and also provided some useful, and sometimes entertaining discussion on North American Lasius. His initial reaction to my query was, 'I detest Lasius!', a sentiment I suspect most people can sympathise with!
It is a sad loss, all the more so for his family and those close to him, to whom my thoughts go out.
Eulogies are at Myrmecos Blog and The Ant Farm and Myrmecology Forum.
Friday, 25 April 2008
Thursday, 24 April 2008
The last of the boring but possibly useful lists.
This covers those counties where I only have a few species recorded or in my collection. Those from Ireland and Senegal were collected by me. My parents have been good enough to collect ants for me, including from Mallorca and Austria. Specimens collected by David M. King were passed to me for identification; these came from Italy, Kuwait, Macedonia, Qatar, Turkey and the Canary Isles (not yet included). Claes-Göran Magnusson sent me a specimen from Sweden. Finally, Sabine Frohschammer passed on a few specimens from a live colony she had collected in Malasia.
1 I know this seems unlikely, but it's the best fit. I've had a paper half written for two years now. My problem is that I can't make my head measurements match those of Seifert's - on any Lasius. I've spoken to others and this is not a problem restricted to me! Oh, and Ireland also has L. psammophilus, with no evidence for L. alienus.
3 Introduced and apparently one of the dominant species on Mallorca now: my parents only collected the two species above, despite searching hard.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
This is the most incomplete of the lists I'm going to present. There are two main reasons for this: the taxonomy of the Australian ant fauna is incredibly difficult, making identification hard, and I was interrupted by my work on the Gambian fauna. Eventually I will get back to these collections.
They are the result of my attendance on the Ant Course 2006, plus an extra week that I stayed. This was held at James Cook University (JCU) Cairns Campus. If you are interested in ants then I can't recommend the Ant Course strongly enough.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Australian ant fauna is quite special. Groups that are rare elsewhere, such as Iridomyrmex and Polyrhachis have diversified into many different forms. Others, such as Leptomyrmex, Turneria, Melophorus and the famous bulldog ants Myrmecia are limited to the Australasian region. I should also make mention of possibly the most famous Australian ant, Nothomyrmecia macrops.
There is a lot of work still to be done on these specimens. Iridomyrmex, Camponotus, Polyrhachis, Crematogaster and Pheidole are all common and diverse in Australia, so I collected a lot of different species. A key now exists for Camponotus, but I've only just started trying to sort through all the specimens I have. Iridomyrmex in particular is well-nigh impossible, as there are many species that differ very little. Many of the smaller groups also lack keys, so identification is not easy.
For further coverage check Australian Ants Online.
I should say that the specimens actually belong to JCU and that I have them as part of a loan to Cardiff Museum. Once I've finished with them they will go to Cardiff or back to JCU.
varians subsp. ruficeps
pictus subsp. bimaculatus
wroughtoni sp. 1
wroughtoni sp. 26
1 Introduced and collected in many situations, from wash-blocks to rainforest.
2 I only collected one specimen of this rarity, which is usually found in the canopy. I found it on my clothes in the room I was staying in at (JCU) Cairns Campus. I suspect that someone had shaken the tree it was on as I was beneath.
4 A bit of a rarity, especially in Queensland, where it is otherwise unknown (Shattuck & Barnett, 2007).
5 Introduced, found once crawling across the desk in the room I was staying in at JCU.
6 Considered to be rare, but I found it frequently enough in the rainforest that by the time I left I could recognise it on sight. Following a chat with Barry Bolton (who last reviewed the genus), I feel confident in saying that what I have belongs to two species.
7 Introduced around Cairns and apparently presenting quite a serious threat. Found abundantly in one place near JCU.
Monday, 21 April 2008
This list of ants in my collection was the result of a two week 'holiday' in the Dordogne and Massif Central areas of France. It was the first time I had ever collected ants outside of the UK and forecast the end of 'normal' holidays for me!
More information on the ants of France can be found at Fourmis, the French ant forum.
1 Two alate queens, one found in the Salignac-Eyvigues, Dordogne, the other on Causse Noir in the Massif Central. The latter was found in association with C. lateralis. This species is not supposed to occur in mainland France, but after a lot of debate they were eventually confirmed by Cedric Collingwood.
2 A rarely recorded species in France. This collection was from the edge of a woodland near Nant, Massif Central. This has also been confirmed by Cedric Collingwood and matches the morphometrics given in Seifert (1992).
3 An introduced species in France, found alongside P. pallidula on the château walls at Castelnaud, Dordogne.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
The other day I had a request from Professor James K. Wetterer at Florida Atlantic University. He had seen the invasive species listed as present in The Gambia and wanted further details of those and others that I had collected.
This lead to two surprises. The first was that someone was paying attention and cared what I get up to. The second was the large number of invasive ants I have collected, despite few collection forays outside of the UK. It has, however, made me wonder if it's worth highlighting the other species that I have in my collection or have records for, in case they are of use to anyone.
I've decided to kick this off with the shortest and simplest list: the paltry fauna of the UK (I'm going to upset some British myrmecologists with this description, but it doesn't make it any less true). A complete list of the 67 native and regularly recorded introduced ants can be found in the checklist available on the BWARS website. The few species that I have in my collection are listed below.
1 Alate queen collected in Yorkshire. Despite a lot of searching no colonies have been located in the area.
2 Two males collected by David Baldock.
3 Present only as a rare introduction, these specimens from the Eden Project.
Saturday, 19 April 2008
Shortly after posting it I took the specimen to Cedric Collingwood, who glanced at it under a microscope and said 'Ah, it's festae!' Since then I've been planning to update this blog with a proper correction, but I wanted to be sure that I know why it is this species.
Why did it take so long? Basically, there is almost no information available on Tapinoma simrothi subsp. festae. It was described by Emery (1925), which I haven't been able to get hold of. I can find nothing else relating to it, aside from a mention in unchecked taxa in Agosti & Collingwood (1987). This entry has a question mark next to it, says that it's expected for the Balkan peninsula and the species is not featured in the key that followed.
Since I haven't encountered anything that clarifies the situation in the last two months, and forgot to ask Collingwood about it last time we spoke, I'm basing my acceptance of this identification on the fact that it is much larger than T. erraticum. T. ambiguum should be the same size as T. erraticum.
As far as I can make out, the size distiguishes T. simrothi from T. ambiguum and T. erraticum. T. simrothi subsp. festae is then distinguished by the shallow anteromedian clypeal notch, which is deeper than wide in T. simrothi. This makes me wonder whether it is the Tapinoma sp. mentioned in Collingwood & Agosti (1996), even though the scape index of this specimen is shorter at 97.
I expect that at some point T. simrothi subsp. festae will be raised to species status, as it seems to differ from T. simrothi no less than T. ambiguum does from T. erraticum.
Friday, 18 April 2008
Saturday, 12 April 2008
It all boils down to couplet 36 of Bolton's (1987) key. I think it would be possible to debate for hours over whether the sculpture on the head of this specimen is 'uniformly densely reticulate-punctate' or 'with a silky, smeared or roughened appearance'. Initially I opted for the former because, well, it is reticulate-punctate, just more finely than the likes of Monomorium bicolor! However, I've since come to realise that this is what Bolton means by the latter, which leads to M. dakarense.
The difference between M. dakarense and M. dictator, other than the ambiguities of cephalic sculpture, seems to be size, number of ommatidia in the longest row and, importantly, scape index (SI). M. dakarense is overall the smaller of the two, with fewer ommatidia and a SI of 95-100, whereas M. dictator has a SI of 107-109. For those not familiar with SI, it is as follows:
The SI in this specimen is 92, putting it closest to the range given for M. dakarense. Given that Bolton only had the three syntype workers to measure it is likely that the true range of the SI includes 92. However, this is not the only difference between this specimen and the holotype, as the other measurements are (quoting the measurements for MJL143, followed by the range given by Bolton, in mm):
Head length = 0.61 (0.57-0.59)
Head width = 0.51 (0.44-0.47)
Cephalic index (ratio of head width to height) = 84 (77-80)
Scape length = 0.47 (0.44-0.45)
Pronotal width = 0.31 (0.30-0.31)
Mesosoma length = 0.72 (0.66-0.70)
Despite the larger size, the specimen is not big enough to be M. dictator and differs in the other features mentioned, so it is most likely M. dakarense.
It still remains a bit of a rediscovery. M. dakarense had been collected once in Senegal in 1914, so it's more likely than M. dictator, which had only been collected in Angola. The only specimens that I collected were found on the ground at Madiyana Camp on Jinack Island, and only at night. Since we stayed at Madiyana Camp for a few days it would be surprising if M. dakarense had been active during the day and I had not collected it then, which indicates pretty strongly that it is entirely nocturnal. Perhaps a combination of its nocturnal habits and its small size have meant that it has not been found again until now?
Sunday, 6 April 2008
Formicary is 'an aggregator for ant and other hymenopteran blogs', which basically means that it collects new additions to English ant blogs. At the moment, I do much the same using NewsFox, but this should pick up on things that I would otherwise miss. Currently it's at a temporary location, but I think it's a great idea, so hopefully it will gain permanent status.
SuperOrganism has been set up to be a more professional/academic version of The Ant Farm and Myrmecology Forum. We'll see how long it lasts.
On much the same subject, it appears as though Notes from Underground may go under because of lack of input. One wonders if this can't last, how much chance is there of SuperOrganism having a long run? Perhaps I'm being cynical: I do think that there is a need for something like this, I'm just not sure what format would be best for the target audience.
Finally, I got up unusually early (for a Sunday) and was surprised to see this out of my kitchen window.
I've seen Sparrowhawks in the centre of Thornbury before and couldn't see any jesses on this one, so I assume it was wild. I watched it for about five minutes, until someone wandered past with their dog and unwittingly disturbed it.
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
N. electrophilum is fast breeding and hard to control. As a result scientists are advising that further sightings are reported, do that the spread of the species can be monitored. Reports made here will be passed on to Dr Anthonid Oudemans, the researcher in charge of this investigation.
For further information click here.