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

img_4695

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.

img_4642

img_4675

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.

img_4603

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.

img_4805

Prince Akishino Visits Arilab

16-11-14-005

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

talk_oki_museum

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

protanilla_okent0001697_h_small

protanilla_okent0001697_p_small

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.

protanilla-lini-dist


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.

Soundscape of Okinawa during Obon

On top of SLAM traps that collect arthropod samples and weather stations that record physical parameter data, acoustic traps that gather sound data are also set up at various OKEON field sites. The soundscape of the sites differ based on their habitats and their proximity to urban areas, as illustrated by the sounds collected during the period of Obon in Okinawa.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. During Obon, Bon dance (bon odori) is performed to welcome the spirits of the dead. The bon dance performed in Okinawa is known as eisa. Across different OKEON sites we can hear different eisa dances with different species either in the foreground or the background. For example, in Nago the eisa dance is in the background, with sounds of many cricket species (Hexacentrus unicolor, Cardiodactylus guttulus, Ornebius kanetaki, Ornebius longipennis) in the foreground while in Nakagusuku the eisa song is in the foreground. By contrast, given its well-preserved continuous forests far from civilization, the soundscape of Yanbaru consists only of natural sounds.

Below are the soundscapes of four different OKEON sites during Obon as well as part of their spectrograms:

nago

Soundscape of Nago on the night of Obon, recorded from Nago Castle Park

Link to sound here

nakagusuku

Soundscape of Nakagusuku on the night of Obon, recorded at Nakagusuku Park

Link to sound here

sueyoshi

Soundscape of Naha on the night of Obon, recorded from Sueyoshi Park.

Link to sound here

yanbaru

Yanbaru Forest on the night of Obon, recorded at the Yanbaru Discovery Forest Park.

Link to sound here

Sound data contributed by our Post-Doctoral researcher Nicholas Friedman.