Search this Topic:
08/20/2012 5:45 PM
08/20/2012 6:13 PM
Forum Overlord,and Basic English Cop/Enforcer/Police.
08/21/2012 9:01 AM
antdude wrote:Myrmecos2 wrote:http://research.calacademy.org/ent/courses/ant2014 looks perfect for AmericANTS.
08/21/2012 3:23 PM
08/21/2012 11:42 PM
The Ant Course went very well and I am sad it is over. I saw lots of cool ants, learned some new things, and met interesting and very likeable people. Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS) in Kibale Forest was a great location for the course. The temperature was comfortable, the mosquitoes scarce, the facilities more than adequate, and the food was great. Best of all, of course, was the huge diversity of ants at the field station and in the surrounding forest. I think there were around 63 ant genera found at or near the site.
The course followed the schedule, with a lot of time in the lab, listening to lectures or working with specimens. There were three scheduled outings into the forest to collect ants. Kibale forest was thick and damp, and we used headlamps for collecting, even during daytime, because it was so dark on the forest floor. We found ants by shoveling dirt and leaf litter into sifters, then hanging the fine soil in Winkler bags to dry, so that tiny ants would burrow down, chasing the moisture, until they fell into collecting cups at the bottoms of the bags. Then we sorted through the contents of the cups under microscopes to see what was there. Some of the ants we collected were only half a millimeter long.
We also collected ants using pooters, aspirators, and, for the larger ants, forceps. The largest ants included Dorylus driver ant soldiers, and big Camponotus and ponerine ants that were up to two centimeters long. And of course the biggest ants, almost three centimeters long, were the giant Dorylus males (“sausage flies”) that flew to a big white sheet that was hung up next to an ultraviolet light. Many insects would fly to the light and land on the sheet at night, including praying mantises, beetles, and all kinds of moths. There were a couple of goofy-looking hornbills that came by each morning to eat insects that were clinging to the sheet. Each student kept a notebook to record the date, place, and circumstances of each sample collected, and when ants went into a vial or bag of leaf litter, a piece of paper with a collection number went in with them. Collection numbers—initials plus a serial number—ensure each ant specimen can be traced to the place and circumstances in which it was collected.After we collected the ants, the next step was to glue them to points, which were then mounted on pins. Phil Ward demonstrated a technique for pinning. A video from a previous iteration of Ant Course used to be posted on AntWeb, but I couldn't find it. Butterfly collectors stick pins right through their specimens, but ants are too small for that. The minute Carebara ants, half a millimeter long, were smaller than the diameter of the pin. Gluing the to the points was tricky, since any but the tiniest dot of glue would cover the specimen, and handling Carebara and Strumigenys specimens under the microscope with the finest #5 forceps was like picking up boiled peas with blacksmith’s tongs. Once the ants were on points, the points went on pins, and below them went three labels. The first (top) label was the collection number, matching the number on the piece of paper that was in the vial or bag. Below that went a label with information about the collection location.
UGANDA: Kibale NPKanyawara Biological Field Station1498m N00.56448° E030.35954°Evergreen forest
Once the ants were mounted, we had to identify them to genus, or to species if possible. That involved looking at shapes and features of various body parts, counting antenna segments, and examining the size, shape, and positions of hairs. Counting antenna segments on my tiniest 5mm specimen proved impossible, so I just called it Carebara and quit there. But I am still not 100% sure it wasn’t really a Baracidris.
To identify the ants, we used a key to genera created by Brian Fisher with assistance from Barry Bolton. The key is a draft for a planned book on African ants, analogous to Fisher and Cover’s Ants of North America. The key incorporated not-yet-published taxonomic changes, such as the reclassification of Pachycondyla into several genera (Brachyponera, Bothroponera, Hagnsia, Megaponera, Ophthalmopone, Paltothyreus, Pseudoponera, with the name Pachycondlya reserved for the New World species). We also received a printed book of color photos of specimens of each genus from AntWeb and the instructors passed around a USB memory stick that included taxonomic literature for many of the genera, enabling species identification.
Once we identified the specimen, we added the third label to the pin. The genus/species label was the bottom label on the pin because it was the label most likely to need to be replaced (with a corrected identification, or a new species or genus name, for instance).
In addition to collecting, pinning, and identifying ants, we listened to lectures on the ant subfamilies and on topics including conservation issues, ant-plant interactions, and use of social media to reach out to the general public about myrmecology and science in general. Walter Tschinkel of Florida State University gave a class on dissecting ants. I had attempted to dissect ants before, but always made a mess of it. Now I know how to do it correctly. During the after-dinner (and after-beer) lectures, those of us who might otherwise have been drowsy were kept riveted to the image projected on the wall by the antics of a gecko, who came out each evening to chase insects attracted by the light. In addition to chasing insects, the gecko occasionally ran after the red dot projected by a laser pointer.
Myrmecos2 gave an optional presentation on photographing insects, which most of the students and some of the instructors opted to attend. I picked up some new tips from his presentation and in the course of many conversations. It was good to meet him in person after long acquaintance on this forum.
I took plenty of photos during the three scheduled outings and on some unscheduled outings when I was ahead in my work and had some time to spare. It’s the nature of insect photography that you take hundreds of photos and hope a few turn out well. I took hundreds of photos and a few turned out well. A few of them were posted on AntBlog and caught the attention of Barry Bolton. The instructors were pretty excited about that. Mr. Bolton is retired and living on the Isle of Wight, but he still writes papers on ant taxonomy and is the world’s foremost ant taxonomist.
One of the ants I really wanted to photograph was the Dorylus driver ants. At the end of the third scheduled outing I saw some, moving in a rapid column. The big soldiers stood guard over the column where it passed along open ground. They face upward, jaws gaping wide; if they detect you—for instance, if you breathe in their direction—they chase after you, with apparent intention to tear you to pieces. During their raiding phase they fan out in massive raids to catch, kill, and eat any living creature that cannot run or fly away. The ants I saw were not raiding, just moving to a new bivouac. Almost as soon as I started to take pictures, it started to rain, so I did not have much time to take lots of photos or adjust camera settings for better images. Within a few minutes it was pouring pretty hard, and my camera was back in the bag. The photos I took are not very good.
One of the best insect photos I took was not of an ant, but a bee. Myrmecos2 suggested that I might get a good photo if I sat near the entrance to the nest of some stingless bees, positioning myself at an angle so that the bees flying to the nest were backlit with a dark green background. The trick was to focus the 100mm macro at the right distance, then take dozens and dozens of photos with the fastest possible shutter speed, in the hope that in one of those photos a bee would happen to be flying within the narrow focal range of the lens. I took over a hundred photos and one is a keeper.
I photographed other things that were not ants, including giant dung beetles, the goofy-looking hornbills. And plenty of monkeys—baboons, black-and-white colobus, red colobus, and vervet monkeys.One morning about 15 of us went out to look for chimpanzees, of which Kibale Forest has the world’s largest wild population. We tromped up and down jungle trails, steep and muddy, but never found any chimpanzees. We found three Dorylus columns, but not necessarily before they found us. Some of us, including me, did the ants in the pants dance. They bite but do not sting. There was no time to stop and take pictures of them.
The other animal we looked for during the chimpanzee excursion was elephants. Elephants are principally forest animals. We mostly see photos of them on the savannah, but that’s because it’s easy to photograph elephants on the savannah. In a dense forest like Kibale, if you are near enough to see the elephant, you are probably too near. We came near enough to hear them crashing around and knocking down trees, but it wasn’t safe to come closer. Later we encountered a pair in slightly more open vegetation. I snapped a photo of the rump of one of them as it disappeared into the brush.
One of the best things about Ant Course was meeting the other students and the instructors. Most of the students were graduate students, and a few were undergraduates. They were working on various studies including DNA analysis, reproductive strategies, conservation, and ecology. Listening to their discussions, I learned about things I had never thought about before, such as the use of nitrogen isotopes to establish where ants fit into the food chain. During the daily social hour, meals, and free time, we talked about ants, things related to ants, and sometimes things that had nothing to do with ants (but conversations usually came back to ants).
At the end of the course, each student had a box of pinned specimens. There was an informal competition to see who could assemble the most genera. I’m not sure who won, but some students had over 45 different genera. I had around 30, including multiples of some species, such as a set of Dorylus specimens including the smallest to the largest workers. Instructors checked each box of specimens for correct identifications and proper mounting, including the dreaded drop test. Corrie Moreau of the Field Museum in Chicago seemed particularly fond of the drop test. She would drop the box of specimens on the floor, and if any fell off, they needed to be remounted or discarded. The reason for the drop test was that if any specimens came loose during transit they could bounce around the box and damage other specimens. Brian Fisher, who has the export permit, took all the ant collections with him at the end of the course. He will bring them back to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and mail them from there to each of the students.
After the course most of the students and instructors returned to Entebbe for their return flights. While there, I had some time to go to the Entebbe Botanical Garden, where I saw a couple of Dorylus columns, which I was able to photograph. The ants looked much the same as their cousins in Kibale, but were much smaller. I also photographed a couple of large Bothroponera foragers.
After visiting the Botanical Garden, I went back to the beach restaurant across the street from the hotel, on the shores of Lake Victoria, and spent the afternoon with other Ant Course participants. Then most of us went to the airport for our various late night flights to Europe and onward and said our goodbyes to each other and those who remained a little longer in Entebbe.
Ant Collection 101: Dig them up!Ant Collection 101: Use forceps to pick up larger antsAnt Collection 101: Use a pooterAnt Collection 101: Use a sifting bag, then hang the sifted soil in Winkler bagsAnt Collection 101: Use a hand sifterAnt Collection 101: Sweep them from brush and grassAnt Collection 101: Climb a tree Ant Collection 101: Beat the bushes and catch them in a beating sheetSome Ants:Atopomyrmex mocquerysi (Entebbe Botanical Garden):Bothroponera:Bothroponera, formerly part of genus Pachycondya, was the most conspicuous Ponerine I observed. This specimen was about 2cm long, but most were around 1cm.Camponotus:Cataulacus:Cataulacus worker on a tree trunk. These arboreal ants, like the similar-looking but unrelated Cephalotes "turtle ants" of the New World tropics, are able to glide. When they fall from the trees--intentionally, sometimes, to escape predators--they can steer their backward trajectory so that they return to the tree trunk instead of falling all the way to the ground. It can save a long walk.Crematogaster:Crematogaster was an abundant genus. The ants in these photos were from Entebbe Botanical Garden. They build carton nests in the trees. Other Crematogaster species I encountered were in fallen logs and under bark.Dorylus:Melissotarsis weissi:I found this Melissotarsis weissi nest in the bark of a tree. The white thing is a larva and the pink things are coccids, which the ants apparently raise as food--not to eat juices that these scale insects secrete, as the Camponotus in the photo above is doing, but for the meat of the insects themselves, analogous to beef cattle rather than milk cows. Melissotarsis workers have a silk gland near their mouths, and they use their specialized tarsi, or feet, to work the silk into linings for their galleries under the tree bark. A strand of silk is visible in the third photo.Odontomachus troglodytes (Entebbe Botanical Garden):There are two species of Odontomachus trap-jaw ant in Africa. The most common in most of Africa seems to be O. troglodytes, but in Kibale all the Odontomachus ants I saw were O. assiniensis.Pheidole:Pheidole were even more abundant than Crematogaster.Plecrotena:The long mandibles are suitable for seizing millipedes, which typically exude noxious chemicals to discourage predators. This ant is nearly 2cm long and has a strong sting.Polyrhachis militaris:Polyrhachis decemdentata:Strumigenys lujae:Tetramorium pulcherrimum:We called this the Teddy Bear ant. Barry Bolton informed us that the ant is Tetramorium pulcherrimum. "Pulcherrimum" means "sweetest."Tetraponera mocquerysi:At the Botanical Garden in Entebbe, I observed assassin bugs that cover themselves with the sucked-dry corpses of their victims. The second photo shows one without the corpses.H
08/21/2012 11:50 PM
08/22/2012 1:46 AM
09/03/2012 5:28 PM
Doc. and Soldier Ant
09/03/2012 8:05 PM
09/04/2012 6:45 AM
09/13/2012 6:45 PM
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.