The dragon ant makes it into the Top10 New Species of 2017

Pheidole drogon major worker

Since 2008, the International Institute for Species Exploration in New York, USA publishes an annual Top 10 list of the new species discovered the past year. The annual list is released around May 23 to honor of the birthday of Carl Linnaeus, also known as the Father of Taxonomy.

Amidst a rat, a worm, a stingray, two plants and other arthropods, the dragon ant Pheidole drogon that was described last year by researchers in our lab made the cut to the 2017 Top 10.

Along with Pheidole viserion, Pheidole drogon – found in Papua New Guinea – owes its name to the dragon in the famed Game of Thrones book and TV series. The idea was inspired from the large spines on the back of the ant, which is revealed to be a location for muscle attachment to allow great strength in the head and mandibles.

The 2017 list of nominees also includes the bleeding ‘Bloodybone’ bush tomato, the spider Eriovixia gryffindori resembling the ‘Sorting Hat’ in the Harry Potter series, an amphibious centipede, a marine worm that look like a churro fried pastry, a South American plant which flower looks like a “Devil head”, a large spotted freshwater stingray, a millipede that continuously adds extra limbs throughout its lifetime, a vegetable-eating rat and finally a leaf-like katydid.

The institute’s international committee of taxonomists selects the Top 10 from among the approximately 18,000 new species named the previous year.

Pheidole drogon minor worker

Written by the OIST Media Section, edited by Julia Janicki.

OKEON Churamori Project on radio again

OKEON Churamori project’s coordinator Dr. Yoshimura was interviewed as part of a FM Naha’s radio program “Magical Mystery Tour”. He talk about the project and how it had evolved since last year’s kick-off. This is the second radio interview with Typhoon FM and it lasted for an hour.


161029吉村正志/沖縄科学技術大学院大学OIST 生物多様性・複雑性研究ユニット
2016年10月29日 更新

Ryukyu Shinpo Spin-Off Event in collaboration with OIST

Following on from the success of Dr Yoshimura’s column in the Ryukyu Shinpo, OIST hosted a joint event on Sunday 31st July featuring Dr Yoshimura himself. Attendees were able to meet Dr Yoshimura, listen to his experiences as a researcher both in Japan and overseas in the USA, and learn how to use a magnifying glass to spot different types of ants.









Dr. Yoshimura spoke about how he became a researcher, and in particular why he became interested in ants. He discussed his experiences moving to San Francisco, working as a researcher and the difficulties he faced. One of the ways that Dr Yoshimura coped living in the USA where there was limited funding for researchers was by starting a one-man band, the Male Ants Project, and earned extra money by busking. Event participants were treated to a performance by Dr Yoshimura of the popular Sukiyaki song.


After the talk, participants were taught how to use a mini microscope to investigate which creatures were in their own surroundings, starting with the Inner Garden at OIST. Children who were already interested in ants or looking for a topic for their summer research project had the opportunity to hear from an expert researcher. Over 50 people attended, and the event was highly successful, with children, parents and university students alike engaged and interested.









For more information and links to the Ryukyu Shinpo Column please click here and here.

New ant species- in 3D!


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.