New ant species- in 3D!

GoTants

We have two new papers out in PLoS ONE today describing some new species and highlighting the potential of micro-CT for ant taxonomy.

The first paper, headed by Eli and co-authored by Georg, revises one crazy spinescent Pheidole group from New Guinea, and notes interesting findings on the musculature under the spines.

We named these species Pheidole drogon and Pheidole viserion after the dragons from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

The second paper, led by Georg, revises the Pheidole knowlesi group from Fiji including complete micro-CT galleries of all castes of six species from the group. This knowlesi group is not as morphologically spectacular as cervicornis, but is of great interest to us as it pertains to our work on the taxon cycle hypothesis.

We hope these show a glimpse of what cool things can be done with micro-CT for organismal biology, biodiversity studies, and taxonomy.
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Tricks to find creatures: Yoshi’s 3rd column in Ryukyu Shinpo

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Tricks to find creatures
(Written by Masashi Yoshimura, translated by OIST)

It’s become more frequent for me to go deep into forests in Okinawa since I joined the natural environmental research called OKEON Project. Throughout Japan, there are approximately 300 ant species, of which one-third of them inhabit on the main island of Okinawa. One can imagine how bustling its forests are and how easy to encounter a variety of unnamed species without an effort once you are there. Unfortunately, that seems to be different in reality. Subtropical forests look rather barren with the floor devoid of fallen leaves. This doesn’t mean we don’t come across creatures at all. It would be perhaps more correct to say that they are not “in our sight” despite of their frequent presence.

It requires a little bit of training and experience to spot something you want to find in the forests. Looking for living creatures blended well with forests, you need to use your ears that can distinguish quiet sounds, nose that detects smells, as well as eyes that can identify the traces left by targeted creatures.  With a little bit more experience, the forests become a completely different place than before.

My peer on the project said to me, “There is difference between what Yoshimura-san and I see, even though we are walking together in the same place in the forest.”

Here is an interesting fact. Depending on what you wish to find, the weight of your senses shift from one to another. If you acquire the technique to recognize birds, wild animals, lizards, frogs, fish, ants, flowers, fern, mushrooms and others, the forests will become richer in color. It’s not just about animals. With a wider view, the forests become much more exciting and appealing than artificial theme parks. In the forests, there is always a surprise when you encounter those creatures by chance, and you’re thrilled.

The technique to really see things will make even your ordinary neighborhood a place with abundant creatures. As much as Yanbaru, northern part of the island, shrubs in your village is also part of the rich natural environment.

 

June 10, 2016, Page 12, Ryukyu Shimpo

The original column can be found here

New Paper in J. of Biogeography

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A new paper is out in Journal of Biogeography, led by Patricia Wepfer. The paper uses our GABI data as a basis to analyze patterns of beta diversity in East Asia. As expected, climate had a major effect on ant beta diversity. But we also found a surprising effect of historical land connections that explained ant diversity patterns better than modern connectivity.

The paper can be accessed here.

New paper published by Cong on how habitat conversion affects ant biodiversity

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A new paper published by Cong Liu et al. in Ecological Monographs reports on how agricultural activity and the associated habitat conversion affects organisms by using ants as a surrogate for all invertebrates.  Specifically, the authors investigated the effects of conversion to rubber plantation on leaf-litter ant taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversities in Xishuangbanna in southeast China.  They found a sharp decline in species richness and low beta diversity after the habitat conversion.

The original article can be found here and the article by the OIST media section on the paper can be found here

New publication by the antmaps team!

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The design and implementation of antmaps.org was described in a paper (Visualizing and interacting with large-volume biodiversity data using client–server web-mapping applications: The design and implementation of antmaps.org) that was published this week in Ecological Informatics. It describes the trend of the increasingly frequent use of web and database technologies within the biological fields, it uses antmaps.org as a case study to propose a web-mapping framework for visualizing large-volume biodiversity data, it describes the key design ideas (cartographic design and user-centered design) behind the application and it details the evaluation of the application to assure the usability of the interface.

Click on this link to read the full paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2016.02.006