Hitting the Road: Argentina

North of Cordoba

Near Cruz de Eje, Argentina

Tomorrow I leave for three ant-filled weeks in northern Argentina. Don't despair, though, the Myrmecos Blog will not go into remission.  Scott Powell will be taking the reins for the rest of the month, and Eli Sarnat will drop in once or twice to regale us with shocking-but-true ant adventures from the South Pacific.  I've also pre-scheduled a few Friday Beetles and Sunday Movies.

We've got several goals for the expedition.  First, Jo-anne and I are trying to get a better sense of the biology of the closest relatives of the Argentine ant Linepithema humile. While the Argentine ant itself is quite well studied, the ecology and behavior of its sibling species are almost entirely unknown.  We'll be collecting and making observations about the territoriality, genetics, and nesting biology of several related species in the northwestern mountains.  Second, Andy Suarez and I have a small project to track down the source population of the tramp species Pheidole obscurithorax, so I'm gathering additional samples for genetic comparisons between the native and introduced ranges.  Finally, we'll be visiting an ant lab at the Ciudad Universitaria in Buenos Aires, getting some pointers from local myrmecologists on conducting field work in their country as well as helping them out with a few specimen identifications.

Time and internet access permitting, I might make a few posts from the road.  In any case, I hope you all have a great month.

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A queen and worker Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, pose for a photograph near Córdoba, Argentina. photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f13, flash diffused through tracing paper
Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) worker and queen Córdoba, Argentina photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, twin flash diffused through tracing paper
There's been a debate simmering among Argentine Ant researchers about the difference between the ant's ecology in its native South America and in the introduced populations.  The heart of the disagreement is this:  is the introduced Argentine ant dominant because its biology changed during…
The Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile), a small brown ant about 2-3mm long, is one of the world's most damaging insects. This pernicious ant is spreading to warmer regions around the world from its natal habitat along South America's Paraná River. Linepithema humile can drive native arthropods…