Archives for March, 2008

Ants vs. Beetles

via Google Trends. Blue is ants, red is beetles: Ants win, even in the face of the beetles’ 20-fold species advantage. That seasonal pattern is striking, no?

Photo Technique: Working With Ants

If you’ve ever spent time photographing ants the above shot will look familiar: off-frame and out of focus. Because ants are small and speedy, they are among the most difficult insects to photograph. Just capturing an active ant somewhere in the frame can be regarded as an achievement, never mind the more aesthetic concerns of…

Update on the Rogue Taxonomist

Last year I mentioned the antics of Mr. Dewanand Makhan, an amateur taxonomist whose enthusiasm for publication rather outstrips any penchant for quality control. This week a team of myrmecologists has stepped in to reverse some of Makhan’s errors: All that [Makhan] has done is sample some of Suriname’s common species of Dacetini, and one…

Rhipicera femorata Victoria, Australia  Here’s an insect with exceptional reception: Rhipicera, an Australian Dascilloid beetle.  Little is known about the biology of this species, but its North American cousins in the genus Sandalus are Cicada parasites- and there are certainly plenty of Cicadas down under. photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a…

Australians get all the cool animals

Jo-anne’s father Keith sends these lovely photos of a swamp wallaby that frequently visits their house outside Melbourne:

The Cambrian Explosion in perspective

The famous Cambrian Explosion– a rapid diversification of animal groups about 550 million years ago- assumes a rather diminished significance when mapped to the full Tree of Life. update: yes, I made the diagram myself, by modifying this.

Best Phylum Ever

This may come as a shock to my regular readers, but I agree with Afarensis that Arthropoda is clearly the best animal phylum.

Evolution of Ant Agriculture

Mycocepurus smithi, in the fungus garden An exciting week for ant aficionados! A new study by ant phylogenetics gurus Ted Schultz and Seán Brady provides the first detailed picture of attine evolution. These New World ants have long attracted the attention of biologists because they, like our own species, practice a well-developed form of agriculture.…

A beetle genome

Tribolium castaneum – Red Flour Beetle The genome of the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum was published today in Nature. This latest insect genome is interesting not for what it says about beetles but for what it says about another model species, the venerable fruit fly. The more we learn about other insect genomes- the…

Rather than blather on about my Easter Sunday, I’ll just share a few images from a morning hike in Tucson’s Rincon mountains. Winter rains have given way to wildflowers, and in particular the Encelia brittlebush was spectacular.