An urgent bleg to Myrmecos readers:
If you have recent collections of Azteca ants suitable for molecular work, and you can mail them out within the week, please consider sending me any samples you can spare. I’d be especially grateful for species like Azteca instabilis, A. trigona, or A. velox that do not live in Cecropia.
Why the rush? I am writing an NSF grant with a group of ecologists and plant systematists to look at evolutionary patterns in the famous Cecropia-Azteca ant-plant system. To make our case to NSF we need preliminary data as a proof of concept.
Our intrepid Cecropia collaborators have dozens of their taxa ready to go. On the ant side we are a little behind, with only about 15 samples usable for genetic research. The test set of taxa already makes promising trees with just a pair of loci, but our sample size is still low and very biased towards the Cecropia-nesters. If we could beef it up with about 5-10 more non-Cecropia species we think we’ll have a better shot at getting funded. The submission deadline is in January, but we’ll need at least two weeks to get the DNA extracted, amplified, and analyzed. Hence the urgency.
Please contact me if you think you can help. This is an exciting project- the ant-Cecropia relationship is an iconic element of Neotropical rainforests, and we may have an opportunity to learn about when, where, and why it originated.
[update: Also, anyone who contributes specimens will get a free 8x10 print, of their choosing, from my photo archive. That's how happy I'd be to get specimens.]