- Pinkalski et al. (2017) have discovered that coffee leaves are able to take up nitrogen from ant faecal droplets of Oecophylla smaragdina left on the leaf surfaces. The abundance of ant foragers on tropical vegetation suggests if this mechanism of foliar nitrogen uptake operates across many plants species, it could represent a highly significant provider of key nutrients for plants.
- An AntWiki Milestone
AntWiki recently added its 600th identification key! While many of these are taken straight from the literature, a number have been updated to include recently described taxa, some of these taxa being keyed for the first time. AntWiki editors are now adding images to these keys as well adding new keys and updating existing keys.
- Brian Fisher and Barry Bolton's just published Ants of Africa and Madagascar is a must-have for anyone interested in the biology and identification of ants, even those never intending to visit Africa or Madagascar. It sets a new standard for regional treatments, bringing together a vast amount of information and illustrations in a very accessible and well presented format. Congratulations to both on pulling off such a huge task.
- Marek Borowiec has just published his generic revision of the ant subfamily Dorylinae. He recognizes 28 genera (27 extant and 1 extinct), an increase from 20 in the previous classification scheme. Two new genera are proposed, 8 are removed from synonymy and 7 are placed in synonymy. Of the 805 species in the subfamily, 175 are transferred to new genera. These transfers include Cerapachys species being scattered across 9 genera while Sphinctomyrmex species are placed in 3 different genera. A superbly illustrated key to genera is included, along with full illustrations for each genus together with descriptions, biological notes, distribution maps and species lists. Overall it is an extremely well done revision of a large and biologically diverse and interesting group of ants. Well done Marek!
- The first extant genus for 2016 has just been described. This follows two new fossil genera, Camelomecia and Ceratomyrmex, described earlier in the year. Bob Johnson and Corrie Moreau (2016) have described Patagonomyrmex from southern Argentina and Chile, transferring three species previously placed in Pogonomyrmex, Patagonomyrmex angustus, Patagonomyrmex laevigatus and Patagonomyrmex odoratus, to their new genus. All three species of Patagonomyrmex are restricted to cool, relatively humid, short growing-season climates in southern Argentina and southern to south-central Chile, typically in habitats dominated by Nothofagus or Austrocedrus.
- It's been a busy year for new species descriptions with some 90 species described so far. These include 3 fossil species placed in 2 newly described fossil genera. Species have been described by 43 authors and placed in 23 genera. See Taxa Described in 2016 for details.
- Bob Taylor and Gary Alpert have just published a paper on the genus Metapone. They describe 12 new species, raising the total for the genus from 16 to 28. See the Checklist of Metapone species and Metapone species by Country for details.
- Leptomyrmex has been puzzling from a biogeographic standpoint. Most extant species occur in Australia with a few found in Indonesia, New Guinea and New Caledonia (see Leptomyrmex species by Country). However, there is a 17 million year old fossil, Leptomyrmex neotropicus, known from Dominican amber. Is this an Australian group that somehow dispersed to Central America, or a Central American group that dispersed into Australia? We now know the answer. In a recent study by Brendon Boudinot and colleagues, a new species of Leptomyrmex, Leptomyrmex relictus, has been described from Brazil and the biogeography of the genus examined. And the answer? Leptomyrmex originated in the New World and found its way to Australia, where it has radiated since its arrival, and has almost gone extinct in its original homeland, where only a single extant species is known. Mystery solved.
- The Ant Tree of Life (AToL) group are at it again. This time it's the subfamily Amblyoponinae that has received their attention. Phil Ward and Brian Fisher have just published a paper looking at the evolutionary history of the "dracula ants", a subfamily containing 10 genera and 133 species. The subfamily is famous for larval hemolymph feeding, a type of feeding where workers and queens feed on hemolymph from larvae within their colony. To see how this paper impacts species in your area, see the summary of changes.
- It is with great sadness that we share that Rudy Kohout passed away last night (26 May) after a long illness. Rudy was not only an outstanding taxonomist and expert on Polyrhachis, but he and Eva (Rudy's wife) were very good friends to many and amazing people.
Stefan Cover notes that while was Rudi an outstanding myrmecologist who leaves behind an extraordinary body of valuable work, he was an even greater friend and colleague to us all. Rudi was a devoted and productive researcher. Our modern understanding of Polyrhachis, one of the most important ant genera in the Old World tropics, is founded almost entirely on his work. Rudi loved his ants, but he was also incredibly kind and generous to us, his somewhat less lovable human colleagues. I always enjoyed his visits to the MCZ - Rudi was one of the few who could come and stay as long as he liked. He was an engaging companion and an endless fund of good stories.
I will never forget his wonderful Czech accented Austalian English - we will never hear the likes of that again I’m sure!
From the entire ant community, Rest in peace our dear friend!
- Extensive Army Ant Collection at the University of Connecticut To Go On Parade. The Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection, housed at the University of Connecticut and containing more than two million specimens, will soon be widely accessible, thanks to a three-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The University, in partnership with the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, will curate, digitize and catalogue this collection and its associated materials which, in addition to the more than two million specimens of about 114 species of army ants, includes 92,000 specimens of guests representing 187 species, 5,000 Kodachrome slides and about 30 hours of digital videotape. One of the more noticeable products of the grant will be the installation of 4-foot replica army ants on the side of the collection facility building. See full details.
- Fabrizio Rigato has published a revision of the Polyrhachis species known from sub-Saharan Africa. He redefines a number of species, describes ten new species, lists numerous new distribution records and provides an excellent key to their identification.
- Alice Laciny, Anna Pal and Herbert Zettel have published an assortment of taxonomic changes and notes on the ponerine ant genus Diacamma. These include the description of six new species and one new subspecies: Diacamma brevistriatum, Diacamma caeruleum, Diacamma carbonarium, Diacamma generali, Diacamma holzschuhi, Diacamma magdalenae and the subspecies Diacamma viridipurpureum quezonicum. Full reference: Laciny, A., Pal A. & Zettel, H. 2015. Taxonomic notes on the ant genus Diacamma Mayr, 1862 (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), part 1. Zeitschrift der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Österreichischer Entomologen 67: 83–136.
- Phil Ward, Bonny Blaimer and Brian Fisher have published a revised classification of the subfamily Formicinae, complete with a new tribal arrangement and a modification of Camponotus. In this new system Colobopsis and Dinomyrmex are considered to be full genera rather than part of Camponotus. This work is based on the recently published molecular phylogeny by Bonny Blaimer, Sean Brady, Ted Schultz, Michael Lloyd, Brian Fisher and Phil Ward.
- Some AntWiki statistics: 25,335 content pages; 102,612 uploaded files; 413,050 total edits; 20.2 million total page views. Some Google Analytics statistics (for the last month): 16,872 sessions; 11,109 users; 58,368 pages views; 3.46 pages per session; 3:50 minutes average session duration; users are from (top 6 countries in order) USA, Australia, Germany, Brazil, United Kingdom, India; 42% are return visitors who view (on average) 5 pages and send 6:20 minutes. Content statistics: 405 genera, 15,179 species and subspecies, 419 identification keys and 255 regional taxon lists. AntWiki has been a great adventure and continues to exceed our expectations. A very sincere thanks to our dedicated editors and growing audience for helping us achieve our first 20 million page views, and we hope to continue to provide useful information on the world's most important group of animals, the ants.
- Students from this year's Ant Course have produced a series of videos showcasing three aspects of the course: learning about myrmecology, learning about ant natural history and learning research techniques. These are a great introduction to why we study ants.
- The latest issue of Asian Myrmecology is now available. Asian Myrmecology is a peer-reviewed, yearly journal dedicated to the study of Asian ants. It publishes original refereed research papers on ants in or from Asia and covers all different areas of modern ant research, including Taxonomy, Biogeography & Distribution, Ecology, Ethology and Applied myrmecology. All papers are open access and can be freely downloaded.
- Peeters, Heraty & Wiwatwitaya (2015) report the first known case of a eucharitid wasp parasitising a Diacamma species, Diacamma scalpratum.
- Evan Economo, Benoit Guénard and the AntMaps team are pleased to announce the launch of AntMaps. AntMaps is an interactive tool to visualize geographic distributions of all ant species as well as aggregate diversity patterns. AntMaps is based on the Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics (GABI) database, which aggregates records from over 8500 publications, plus museum and online databases, currently consisting of 1.6 million records in total. We hope you will find this new tool useful in your research.
- Sociobiology is pleased to announce that the Special Issue on Taxonomy, Morphology and Phylogeny of Ants has now been published online, with open access. This accomplishment would not have been possible without the trust deposited by authors in this project, the hard work of the co-editors for this Special Issue, Rodrigo Feitosa, John Lattke and Ted Schultz, the Editors-in-chief of Sociobiology, and the work of the staff in the editorial office. We hope you find it interesting!
- Rick Overson & Brian Fisher, in their most recent paper on the ants of the Malagasy Region, describe five new species of Prionopelta, Prionopelta laurae, Prionopelta subtilis, Prionopelta talos, Prionopelta vampira and Prionopelta xerosilva.
- Robert Johnson & Stefan Cover have published a paper on the seed-harvester ant genus Pogonomyrmex from Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti).
- Herbert Zettel and Alice Laciny have a new paper on Asian Echinopla, which includes the descriptions of 8 new species: Echinopla angustata, Echinopla brevisetosa, Echinopla circulus, Echinopla fisheri, Echinopla madli, Echinopla mezgeri, Echinopla subtilis and Echinopla wardi.
- Patrick Schultheiss, Chloé Raderschall and Ajay Narendra have a new story published on tandem running in the Australian ant Camponotus consobrinus (see Ajay's blog post). They've put together a short clip explaining its significance.
- The total number of ant species known recently passed through 15,000! AntWiki has a page for each of these, and every one can be found in at least one regional taxon list. These species are placed in just over 400 genera, each of which also has an AntWiki page. Check out the species described so far in 2015 or any other year. If you need a list of these genera and species, as well as their distribution and other details, Excel-ready files are available.
- Winkler bags are an invaluable tool for collecting ants from leaf litter. Benoit Guénard (see his blog) has produced three videos on the use of Winkler bags, Ant collection with Winkler Extractors, Ant collection with Winkler Extractors-2 and Hanging Winkler Bags. If you're new to collecting ants this is a great place to start.
- Matthew Prebus published a paper describing four new species of Temnothorax from Kenya: Temnothorax brevidentis, Temnothorax mpala, Temnothorax rufus and Temnothorax solidinodus.
- Bob Taylor published the second part of his series on Australasian ants of the subfamily Heteroponerinae, describing nine new species.
- Brendon Boudinot continues leading the way with male ants, publishing a paper including the first global male-based key to subfamilies.
- Shingo Hosoishi publishes a paper on the Crematogaster ranavalonae-group in Asia with the description of two new species, Crematogaster hashimi and Crematogaster imperfecta.
- AntWiki added its 330th identification key recently. See the list of these keys.
- Bob Taylor publishes a study of Australian Myrmecia species, with descriptions of four new species, Myrmecia banksi, Myrmecia haskinsorum, Myrmecia imaii, Myrmecia impaternata
- Morphological details have been added to AntWiki genus pages. Check Gnamptogenys for an example.