Happy New Year! The First Rooster Call of 2017

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On a small farm near the botanical garden in Okinawa City, a rooster sang its first song of 2017 – the “year of the rooster”. His was the first song of the dawn chorus, a daily event that arouses every type of bird sound on the island of Okinawa – from the sweet melody of the Ryukyu Robin (Akahige) to the harsh screeching of the Brown-eared Bulbul (Hiyodori).


– The first rooster call of 2017 –

This biological symphony has the sun as its conductor, as the conditions just before dawn are especially favorable for singing: the air is cool, the wind is quiet, and the light is low enough to afford a modicum of safety. For male birds, the dawn chorus provides a time for each individual to broadcast “I am still here”, and to assess which of its neighbors can say the same. For female birds, this can be a convenient time to determine which is the superior songster, or to share in the chorus.


– The dawn chorus –

Arilab’s post-doc Nick uses the rooster and its chorus as a way to monitor Okinawa’s ecosystems. The number of different bird species that join the rooster in its song each morning is an indicator of the ecosystem’s health. A varied and noisy morning suggests a healthy environment, whereas a silent morning suggests that some species have gone missing. The rooster’s song was recorded using a network of automated recorders placed in forests and fields across Okinawa.

– Content written by the OIST media section.

The Wonder of Ants and the OKEON Churamori Project – Open Campus 2016

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On Sunday, November 27th, guests from all parts of Okinawa gathered at OIST to attend the Open Campus Science Festival. This event was OIST’s biggest Open Campus to date, with over 5200 attendees, 250 volunteers, 20 food vendors and 35 booths featuring hands-on science activities.

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The arilab booth attracted many visitors. Per usual, the Wonder of Ants is an essential part of the exhibition: there were ant specimens displayed, microscopes set up that allowed visitors to look at macroscopic ants, 3D-printed ants, 3D ants and ant structure that can be visualized by wearing 3D glasses, and an educational video about ants.

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On top of that, the OKEON project had its own area, with various posters set up about the project, a SLAM trap and a camera trap set up as demonstrations, a video created by Nick that documents various sounds recorded from acoustic traps at OKEON sites, and finally the famous Okinawan ant specialist Takamine san was also present to educate people about ants.

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Prince Akishino Visits Arilab

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Image from QAB

On November 14, 2016, His Imperial Highness attended the Joint Meeting of the International Congress of Zoology and the Zoological Society of Japan and visited the OIST campus, including the Economo Lab. Evan gave an overview of our lab research, including ant phylogenies, GABI/antmaps.org, the OKEON Churamori project, studying ant morphology with micro-CT, invasive ants and ant projects in Madagascar. The Prince has a PhD in molecular phylogenetics (!), so he understands our research very well and asked terrific questions.

Several media outlets broadcasted the visit, including NHK, OTV and QAB.

Joint talk event between OIST and the Okinawa Municipal Museum this Sunday

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This Sunday, on November 6, 2016, there will be a joint talk event between the Okinawa municipal museum (沖縄市立郷土博物館) and OIST, held at the Okinawa municipal museum. The first talk is going to be presented by the curator of the museum, and it is titled “Why is Okinawa city the entrance to Yanbaru”? The second talk is given by Yoshi, the coordinator of the OKEON Churamori project, and his talk is titled “Figuring out the biodiversity of Okinawa – OKEON Churamori project”.OIST will also have a booth set up at the event.

The talk will start at 1:30 pm and will be held at the 4th floor of the Okinawa Cultural Center, in the entertainment hall.
If you have any questions please contact the Okinawa municipal museum at 098-932-6882.

Rare ant found in OKEON sample

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A rarely-collected ant species, Protanilla lini, has been identified from a SLAM trap sample that was collected from Hentona High School (site04) between September and October last year. Protanilla lini belongs to the subfamily Leptanillinae. All members of the family are small, subterranean and often blind ants that are very rarely collected. We know very little about their biology, but we believe they are predators of larger prey such as centipedes or earthworms. It is likely that they perform some form of “dracula ant feeding behavior”, where the adults hunt large prey, but instead of feeding on it themselves they take their larvae to the prey, the adults then drink the haemolymph (or “blood”) of the larvae without causing any physical damage.

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Distribution of Protanilla lini, image from antmaps.org

 

This species has been recorded only in Taiwan and Okinawa. It has been collected only once before in Okinawa, and a couple of times in Taiwan.

The information and the specimen images were provided by our staff scientist Paco Hita Garcia.