Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Antsy

 
 
Ants have made a lot of news this year, most recently for a very ambitious project by the California Academy of Sciences to capture 3D images of every ant species - all 30,000 of them. They have photographed 8,000 so far in the U.S. and England (including 1st image Thaumatomyrmex mandibularis, 2nd image Atta cephalotes, and 3rd image Myrmecia pilosula) and plan to image 10,000 a year. The database will include examples of all the different ant castes - queens, soldiers, minor workers - and the different sexes. The specimens will be accessible in unprecedented detail to all via the Internet (see AntWeb). "This project will mean that anybody, anywhere at any time will have access to these specimens that we hide in museums," says entomologist Brian Fisher, leader of the project. Here is the other ant research that made headlines:
  • A study of tropical weaver ants showed that they retain a collective memory of the "chemical signature" that coats the bodies of the members of invading ants. 
  • A project on leafcutter ants poured 10 tons of cement into a colony to reveal subterranean tunnels and chambers 500 sq ft in area and up to 26' beneath the surface.
  • Research on Pheidole ants proved that they are able to "trick" larvae to develop into members of a rare and unusual supersoldier caste, which protect the colony by blocking the entrance from invaders with their oversized heads.
  • A study of so-called zombie ants shows that with the intervention of another fungus, they can avoid a fungus-induced fate in which spores take over their brains and direct them to a cool, moist location where the fungus can kill its hosts, erupt from their heads, and spread.
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A swarm of previous posts about bugs:

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