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Myrmecology - Science topic

A forum of discussion for anyone working or interested in the matter of Myrmecology, i.e. the study of ants.
Questions related to Myrmecology
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I was wondering if anyone ever studied the group-survival of ants as a function of group composition;
For instance, suppose you have a group of N ants, composed of 3/4 of minor workers and 1/4 of major workers. How long could this group survive? And how longer than a group composed of 1/2?
I would be really glad to know if there is any paper published that dealt with this problem.
Thanks.
Igor
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I think the aggressors will win. Remember Lord of the Flies?
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Hello,
I am currently doing quite some research on Solenopsis invicta, mainly because ant keeping is an interesting hobby of mine (even though normally not my field of research) and I think that you cannot know enough and I have recognized several things that in my opinion don’t really fit into the invasive success of RIFA.
1.) most S. invicta colonies are monogynous and have a very high heterozygoty (I believe to have read 95%)
2.) polygynous S. invicta with the GP-9 allele can only exist in the Genotype Bb because bb and seemings BB wouldbe lethal, that means a highly polygynous mutated alate would have to mate with a “normal“ male to be able to reproduc.
Also 90-100% of the produced males in the highly polygynous mutation are sterile.
3.) fire ants were introduces to the US in the 1930s and their success started with very few colonies. Despite from this fact they still maintain a high heterozygosity.
Also many colonies found in their natural Habitat don’t have any queens at all.
So this suggests me that those ants have a unusual mode of reproduction, either worker reproduction, thelytokous parthenogenesis or similar. I really cannot imagine that this species could have been so invasive just because of their aggressiveness. Actually all invasive ant species I am aware of either have adaptive inbreeding, parthenogenesis or worker reproduction.
Maybe some of you have an explanation for this. Their success looks to me like very paradoxically
Best regards,
Andre
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Hello Andre; S. invicta has been in my area (the Inland Valley of Southern Calif) for only a few years. It is the second highly invasive ant in the area. The argentine ant is the other. A little story about the argentine ant might be instructive. They are highly polygynous here but are monogynous in their native range. They are polydomous here but monodomous in the native range. Here they form massive "supercolonies" containing billions of workers and cover thousands of square kilometers. Within a super colony any worker is welcome in any nest. At the boundaries between supercolonies intense fighting occurs.
The colonies of S. invicta that I have played with here seem to be polygynous. At least I've seen more than one wingless queen in a single nest. Workers don't get attacked if they are moved from one nest to a neighboring one...whatever that means.
I've read about queenless ants (can't find the citation) but they are evidently rare. Queenless colonies of many ants may have reproducing workers but the product is only male offspring.
You might do some observations on S. invicta along these lines. Maybe you don't need such an unlikely interpretation. Best regards, Jim Des Lauriers.
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During last months I've been searching for Leptanilla specimens at Madrid, Spain. Leptanillinae are minute, blind subterranean ants rare to find and placed in a basal position in the phylogenetic tree of the Formicidae. I excavated a small area of 40 square meters and used Berlese methods to extract the specimens from the soil. I collected 3 queens, 1 larvae and 535 workers, probably corresponding to 3 species (one of them Leptanilla charonea, and the others pending of identification, without precluding new sp). In a pool placed 50 meters away from the excavation area I collected 370 undescribed males corresponding to 4 (maybe 5) species.
I am seeking the collaboration of experts in order to:
1) Identify and describe the specimens
2) Make DNA analysis to associate males with workers (a special problem not solved in Leptanillinae, currently with two parallel taxonomies, one of males and another of workers and queens).
A brief account of the excavation at Madrid, and some observations on the fligth of Leptanilla males, can be found in these entries of my blog:
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Dear Jose,
We are keen to getting some embryo samples from the Liptallinae. If you still have live colonies or can catch some, we'll be keen to discuss collaboration. I am in Lyon, and could drive down to Madrid with a student if that suits.
Best
Abdou
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I can find literature discussing the temperature tolerances of individual species but not the family Formicidae as a whole. Is anyone aware of any literature discussing their climatic tolerances or their use as climatic proxies?
Thanks,
Chris
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At the risk of sounding repetitive, here is an author whose publications I think it would be worthwhile to consult: Michael Kaspari (University of Oklahoma, USA).
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In order to treat a Wasmannia auropunctata (little fire ant) megacolony in Tahiti, we try to figure out the maximal travel distance that a worker can do. Do you have an idea. Nothing in our review on the subject.
Thanks
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With invasive ants, it is common to observe seasonal variation in the spatial extent of a colony: they may not move far from the nest, but they can extend the nest to get closer to where they want to go. This should be taken into account when deciding of new treatment strategies.
For example in the Argentine ants:
Heller, N. E., & Gordon, D. M. (2006). Seasonal spatial dynamics and causes of nest movement in colonies of the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). Ecological Entomology, 31(5), 499-510.
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I am working on post copulatory sexual selection in ladybirds.
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Thanks for your valuable suggestion
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There is a need to identify a group of arthropods from which effort should be put while scouting for candidate biocontrol agents of a given forest insect pest.
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I am curious at the geographical variation of smell perception towards some ants when they are crushed. Please, if you have these tiny pest insects at home and would be willing to sacrifice few workers, could you provide me your location and how would you describe the smell they give off when crushed? Thanks in advance!
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I'm in agreement with those reporting the smell resembles rancid coconut, for all species of Tapinoma I've smelled, and some relatives such as Forelius, Dorymyrmex, as well. 
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In future space travel space ships will be isolated for months, this could make it easy for various kinds of pests to spread over the ships.
Ants are carnivore and could help to contain such pests, especially in regions that cannot be accessed easily (behind cover panels, ...). I think about Leptothorax spp., with small colony sizes.
Are there any studies about the behaviour of ants in space?
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I think there was work on fish and rats in space that showed that if they were raised there they failed to develop the ability to right themselves in gravity. Given that they live in granular environments and these are very gravity dependent, making their homes might be tough!
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Hi ! 
i'm looking for some papers studying the foraging distance a colony of ants can reach while foraging. I was unable to find enough information online so far. 
Does anyone have some information ?
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These might have an answer, or they might cite some older literature that does.
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Two years of observations on oil palm trees plantations in Malaysia had shown novel nesting behavior of the Asian weaver ants Oecophylla smaragdina (Fabricius) that was never reported.
These contained an average of 3.98 ±1.74 (mean ± SD, range 1-13) nests per tree with the only odd number of nests in each surveyed trees.
The phenomena exist during both dry and rainy seasons of the year. In the biological system, only one case is clearly reported in North America for the cicadas insect eaten by birds when with a life cycle of 13 or 17 years, which still remain a mystery. The ants exhibited polydomous nesting behaviour, as reported by other authors (Debout et al. 2007), with multiple nests in a single palm tree, and multiple queens were sometimes observed in the main nest, suggesting polygyny (Exélis Pierre and Azarae, 2012- in press).
Four experimental design testing had shown all positive results demonstrating that there are factors regulating the mechanism, from the queens. How and why? it is yet to be found out...
I would like to know if the modeling equation system could help to explain the underlying biological mechanism regulating this. Beside the swarm intelligence of these ants. Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.
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Nesting behaviors of O. smaragdina in oil palm plantations
Objective: 
How a colony of O. smaragdina distributes its workforce and territory iIs a key behavior in the biological pest management using this ant.  There are two processes (1) nest-allocation to each tree (how many nests are constructed in a specific tree), and (2) worker-allocation to each food items (how many workers take part in when they bring food item) and each part of the territory.
Methods:
(1) Nest-allocation
      a. Our preliminary study suggests a strange phenomenon that we observed in each oil palm tree whereby the ant constructs the odd number of nests. We examine if this phenomenon does really exist (not only on oil palms but on other trees).
      b. If the above phenomenon exists we experimentally study its mechanism by manipulating the number of nests in the field.
(2) Worker allocation
      a. Examine the relationship between the size of the food item and group size by video especially focusing on its movements.
      b. Monitor the daily activity of foragers in the field to know when they hunt what items on what time?
A national survey is conducted on the total number of nest occupying each palm trees in Peninsular, Sabah & Sarawak, related to a unique phenomenon of oddness number of nests. The survey is carried out during both rainy and dry season of the year.
Direct counting is done using a binocular device for tall palms.  This is a novel study on an exceptional behavior rarely seen in nature. The phenomena of odd prime number exist only among the insect periodical cicadas Magicicada septendecim, M. septendecula, and M. cassini in North America with a life cycle of emergence after 13 or 17 years (Fontaine et al., 2007). Little is known on this unique factor related to the odd number of 13 and 17 (it is never 12 or 18; even numbers). A recent report related the cicadas timing of emergence to the abundance and synchrony of avian predators populations in the USA. Cuckoos (Coccyzus spp.) increased highly during emergence years to decline consequently profusely while red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes Carolinus), Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata), Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) and Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrusater) had their population abundance increase for 1-3 years subsequently to cicadas emergence to finally decline (Koenig & Liebhold, 2005). What are the underlying biological mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon? in the case of O. smaragdina nesting behaviors in oil palm plantations.
To investigate the underlying biological mechanism, to understand this, performing the following experiments might lead to verify the existing nesting behavior among Oecophylla smaragdina ants devising the tendency of constructing an odd prime number of nests per palm tree.  From the previous survey of occupancy:
I-                   By adding a nest to a tree that already has a nest, and observe what happen (if the populations of the added nest are always absorbed to the old one?).
II-                Or release a few collected but disturbed nests on the base of a palm tree where already a nest exists on the canopy. 
III-             From these, the expected hypothesis is - Ants whose nests were collected and disturbed may climb up to the nearest palm tree to reconstruct a new nest.  However, on the tree, there is already a nest belonging to the same polydomous colony.  If there is any mechanism that regulating the nest numbers leading to the odd prime number phenomenon, ants should never reconstruct a nest, but if they do they will make 2 or 4 new nests in both cases
IV-             . Another trial is to destructively cut a frond of a palm tree having i.e 11 nests to artificially reduce the total nest number to 10. In that case, if there is a real apparatus and variable responsible or explaining this mysteriousness, the ants shall rebuild at least one new nest to rebalance the tendency of odd nest number to obtain again 11 nests in total. It is possible that three more nests would be added for a final total of 13 nests.
The trial is statistically analysed by Chi Square test X2, and data are verified by Fisher’s exact test or Barnard’s exact test which is a more powerful alternative of the previous for samples size n < 1000. Barnard’s exact test can verify the strength of the data record on odd prime total nest number per palm tree obtained.
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can you identify this fly in the box please ?
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As regards families, sarcophagids (Sarcophagidae) and calliphorids (Calliphoridae) can be recognized. See for example genera Sarcophaga, Calliphora, Lucilia, Phaenicia. But for identification of genera and species, the direct examination of the specimens is necessary, in my opinion. Regards,
Rinaldo Nicoli
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I think the majority of bats have morphological differences  because they use not only differ type of flight but walking, hanging and so on.
I wish you success, Irine K.
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Hi,
I have to make a choice between Y-tube and 4-arm olfactometer but I cannot really understand the differences and advantages/disadvantages between the two. I need to study ant preference towards seeds of a particular species which have a lipid rich appendage and compare with removal of lipid appendage (negative ctrl) . I also wish to compare varieties of different size appendages.
Which olfactometer setup would be ideal and why?
Thanks.
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Hello,
One major problem with Y-maze is the edge-following behaviour that happen with some species that are thigmotactic. Basically, some insects will follow the first wall they encouter. As a result, the insect will for example select the right maze just because it first encountered the right wall and followed it until its end.
You would't have such a problem with 4 arm maze... But they are fare more difficult to buid and adjust...
Damien
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I am having trouble finding sources explicitly talking about this, but get the sense that highly polymorphic species don't much occur at high latitudes. Does anyone have anecdotes or papers refuting or supporting this observation?
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All very useful sources! Thank you.
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In Ant Colony System If we have 5 cities and 5 ants. Does all ants have to start from the same city? What is the difference if they start from different cities. I am placing the ants at different cities as starting points randomly. I tried using both cases but my results are same. I want to know if it's correct or there is a problem with my code.
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 My question was not about increasing or decreasing the number of ants. I want to know does it make any difference if ants start from the same city or different cities
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Dear collagues,
This is probably a very naive question but to date I haven't obtained a satisfactory answer. I often must study old papers. I recurrently find these old papers very reticent and short in some of the most respected journals of today, e.g. Science and Nature. Some of those are highly cited papers taken as paradigms in specific fields.
I herein include an example from my field, ant venoms. Anyone working on fire ant venom has bumped into the paper below:
"Chemical, Insecticidal, and Antibiotic Properties of Fire Ant Venom"
Unfortunately the main author has recently passed away so I cannot ask him this specific detail now: where is the data and methods description?
All results as reported are central to my field of study, but the narrative is too short to allow understanding any details. I though maybe details are presented elsewhere in the edition, but it does not look like from seeing their website. 
Perhaps someone more experienced could give me a clue there, please?
Thanks in advance
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In many cases, the detailed description of the methods can be found in earlier papers (or sometimes later ones) from the same lab published in journals that allow for more complete descriptions of methods than Science and Nature. Work your way back through the references in the article in question to begin with. Sometimes you have to follow a trail of references back in time until you find the details of a method.
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Hello everyone, I was wondering if anyone has experience modeling ant species with Maxent? ... The important ecological ?? biological interpretations ??
Thank you! Regards.
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Have a look at this paper, which was very useful to me. 
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I collect this ant in many cities in Côte d'Ivoire during the survey for my Doctoral research. it is very close to Monomorium pharaonis but i am not sure it is one.
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Dear Kouakou,
I don't think it is Monomorium pharaonis. One of the character to consider here is the inflated postpetiole that is very clear on your specimen but not on M. pharaonis. You can see this both on the profile and dorsal view. You can compare your specimen with those on antweb, including the type: https://www.antweb.org/bigPicture.do?name=casent0008625&shot=p&number=1 
Surprisingly, your species looks like M. dichroum, an Asian distributed species. I can not see all the characteristics well enough to be positive, but this would deserve a check. Of course, considering the disjunction in distribution and IF this is the right identification (which is very speculative at this point), this could represent a new species introduction. Considering that your ant was collected within an urban environment, this seems rather possible.
Best,
Benoit
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Does Lasius niger distribution include any countries in Africa?
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Thank you Benoit and Rhian for the reply.
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Scale: 1mm increments.
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Looks like the Argentine ants, Linepithema humile
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concrete steps?test methods?
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These articles may help you (good luck!):
Edwards, D. P., M. Hassall, W. J. Sutherland, and D. W. Yu. 2006. Assembling a mutualism: Ant symbionts locate their host plants by detecting volatile chemicals. Insectes Sociaux 53: 172–176. DOI: 10.1007/s00040-006-0855-z
Dáttilo, W. F. C., Izzo, T. J., Inouye, B. D., Vasconcelos, H. L. and Bruna, E. M. (2009), Recognition of Host Plant Volatiles by Pheidole minutula Mayr (Myrmicinae), an Amazonian Ant-Plant Specialist. Biotropica, 41: 642–646. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2009.00518.x
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I am confused for identify this ant species .plz help me to identify this species
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Hi,
¿You could put pictures of pigidio? To find out if you have anal, acidoporo or sting? ¿In which country was collected?
Best regards,
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plz help me to identify this ant species. I know this polyrachis species but i am confused to identify species of polyrachis
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I am not able to answer to your question but, when you post a photo of any insect, asking for its identification, I suggest to you to indicate always both the dimensions (length) of the specimen and the collecting data (country, region, date...): information which can be useful for an answer.
Regards,
Rinaldo Nicoli 
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Last weekend, I saw a L. cf. umbratus running around with a yellow ant between her mandibles. According to the literature, yellow Lasius species do not belong to the regular hosts of L. umbratus. Since the gyne was running around with the ant, I presume she actively selected this worker instead of being attacked by her; I cannot prove against this hypothesis though, as I didn't follow the act from the beginning.
Now I wonder, how specific is the selction of hosts by L. umbratus gynes? Is the selection of the "wrong" species by the gynes something to be considered as a possibility?
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Hi Carl-Ulrich, one my student collected a mixed sample of L. flavus and L. umbratus 2 years ago from one nest, but we did not find the nest again. Its impossible to say whether it was plesiobiosis or a case of rare parasitism.  Everything is possible in nature...
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The surfaces made of acrylic sheeting. I need to periodically remove any traces of trail and/or alarm substances.  The species is Formica exsectoides.
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Hi Sylvio.
Both solvents should be able to destroy all "smell marks", they are safe to use in aquariums/insectariums and won't damage acrylic surfaces which could be the biggest issue in your case. Just one more tip - do not use alcohol or bleach. 
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I am looking for details on Hypoponera ants such as biology, ecology and habitat.
Thanks,
Thamer Mahdi PhD
Entomologist
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Do queen-right colonies show different foraging patterns than colonies without queens? I am looking for any evidence of the influence of queens on foraging and activity patterns in the genus Formica or any other ant species. Any literature you may know of would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
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Herbers and Choiniere 1996 (Foraging behaviour and colony structure in ants)  report that ants from queenless colonies move slightly faster.
Portha et al 2004 (How food type and brood influence foraging decisions of Lasius niger scouts) found that the presence of brood doesn’t affect sugar drinking: ants almost always drink sugar.  Food type and brood presence affect prop of laying ants, but not number of lays per ant. The proportion of ants laying pheromone to sugar solution food is  higher in colonies with brood, from 65% to 84% laying. Same pattern with protienacious food (35% and 61% for without and with, respectively). But with sugar the difference was non-significant, and with protein barely significant (0.044, with a one tailed test).
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I am working on a paper dealing with the efficacy of several methods to sample ants in forest leaf litter of temperate broad leaved forest. I need some papers reporting on the structure of ant communities in this environment in Europe. Surprisingly they seem to be very rare. I appreciate any suggestions!
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I have seen this video from BBC "Fire Ants and Techno-Chaos" which states that fire ants (mainly Solenopsis invicta) will attack electric equipments in the US, causing considerable damage and havoc. I have been working with fire ants for almost 10 years, but never in the US. I have made many observations in the field in  South America (French Guyana, Uruguay, Brazil), and I have never seen them attacking electric installations there in their native range. On the other hand, I have observed some species of Camponotus, such as C. rufipes, making satellite nests in power boxes in gardens however I am not sure if they were really attracted by the electricity (dead power boxes also got colonised). My aunt lives in a heavily saevissima-infested region in Rio de Janeiro, and never had one equipment colonised by fire ants.
Thus I would like to ask US residents if, from their personal experience, they feel fire ants will enter equipments any more often than other local ants?
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Eduardo: It is common in the US. In College Station Texas (about 30 years ago) we did a lot of work on this and they attack nearly every box that controls traffic signals. These  boxes have a relay switch that the ants enter and fill the switch so full of ants the contacts can't close and the traffic light fails to operate. We fixed the problem by sealing the switch so the ants couldn't enter it. This is an area with high infestation rates, much higher than I have seen in Mato Grosso do Sul and surrounding areas (several hundred nests/ha). They also invade modems and other electrical equipment. A nest of Solenopsis bicolor invaded my laptop in Colombia and ruined it. All of the ants (several subfamilies and genera) we tested were attracted to electrical fields. I can send you reprints if you are interested.
Bill
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I would need to do some experiments on ant pupae, but I should genotype them before procedures. As such I would be needing some body part for DNA extraction. I know adults do well after one leg amputation, but I am not sure about pupae. Would anyone perhaps know if an ant pupa would survive a leg or wing amputation? Also, how could I be sure that the pupa is alive after 48h from amputation, since they do not move?
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I still suggest just swab them..or even use their shedded moult should have enough DNA:
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I`m searching for some information about horizontal transfer of gut symbionts between ant larvae and mature ants. I`m very thankful for any suggestions. Also information about a symbiont transfer between mature ants would be helpful.
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I have recently been looking up data on the extinct giant (hummingbird-sized) Eocene ant Titanomyrma, as well as the closely related and possibly synonymous form genus Formicium. However, the only information I have been able to find on the paleobiology of these species is from Wikipedia, and none of the information they give cites a particular paper.
According to Wikipedia, Titanomyrma lacks a closing mechanism on the crop (whatever that means), sprayed formic acid as a primary means of defense, and has adaptations that suggest it was either a fungivore like modern leaf-cutter ants or was predatory in a manner similar to driver ants. Does anyone know what research articles (if any) proposed these ideas, and why? It could be that they were proposed in a paper regarding Formicium (which species assigned to Titanomyrma were formerly placed in).
Finally, as an additional question, does anyone know what living group of ants the Formiciinae (note the extra "i") are related to? The group may be extinct, but close living relatives are known it might be easier to determine how likely the presence/absence of these adaptations are.
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Hi, Russell, Yes, we were interested in the kind of environment that it lived in and how that might have affected its dispersal. I know that Torsten Wappler in Germany is heading up a team to look more deeply into these ants. As David mentioned, we only had the one specimen, and it wasn't nearly as well preserved as the German ones, which are numerous and much better preserved. So, I expect that Torsten and his team will have a lot more to say about how these ants lived and where the Formiciinae fits into the ant phylogeny. Actually, you might also look at the work of Herbert Lutz for more info.
Here's Torsten's contact: <twappler@uni-bonn.de>
Cheers,
Bruce
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I am currently working as a postdoc in Switzerland with fire ants. For obtaining more colonies of fire ants, we must travel far, to the field in subtropical regions. We currently have several colonies established in climatized chambers.
One procedure which would prove very useful to manipulating varieties of fire ants and also help us have more colonies without travelling would be inducing artificial mating flights. I have read only one paper on such attempt, however it was incomplete and only superficially described.
Has anyone here ever tried doing that?
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depends on what ant species, but one consideration is to elevate temperatures to match their natural disperal chronology...maybe even drench them a bit with water as some species use the temperature and a rain event to foster nuptial flights. Like I said, it depends on what species you have...good luck.
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I am running an experiment where I must remove a brood from an ant colony and store them separately. I currently have no idea how long the brood will survive while outside the colony environment and it is vital that the brood do not die. The species I am studying are Lasius niger and Lasius flavus. Any help is greatly appreciated.
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Dear Thomas,
We have Lasius colonies in the lab here, but I work with fire ants. By brood, you must mind that you refer to any immature stage, which can be an egg, 1st-, 2nd-, or 3rd-instar larva, a prepupa, or a pupa. Each one of these stages is different in terms of demands from the colony. As a general rule, outside the colony, any of those will easily dehydrate, thus you must store them in a humid container without drowning. Also note that young larvae may eat eggs, and bigger larvae may eat smaller larvae. Some instars are more active and will eat more than others, thus younger larvae will quickly die (possibly hours) without nursing workers. Some species need assistance during moults, I do not know about Lasius, so 1st and 2nd-instar larvae could die within 1 or two days. Last instar larvae should last longer, such as 4 days, and may start metamorphosis without being further fed. Prepupae are merely last-instar larvae with a developing pupa inside, thus they tend to be more whitish (no gut) and immobile, and more elongate with a small constriction in the middle of body, and will eject a black meconium. I think in Lasius these and pupae are cocoons. I would expect any mature brood inside cocoons to survive for over 10 days outside the colony, and complete metamorphosis. Some species may need assistance to exit the cocoon, thus it is possible that many pharate adults will die when leaving the cocoon. Hope this general overview helps your planing.
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Does anyone know why and can anyone give me any references?
Pheidole megacephala (Big Headed ant) ants buried a 4kg carcass.
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Large food items may be cut up and moved, bit by bit, to the nest. Large food items that can't be cut up quickly and that are buried remain available to the colony. In the latter case, part of the colony might be moved to the prey item. It either case, the food it protected from competitors.
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I´d the like to know about any information available about the nesting behavior of Pachycondyla and Odontomachus species living on the ground.
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This is complicated by the problem regarding what is Pachycondyla, and Odontomachus. There is plenty of evidence supporting the non monophyly of Pachys, and there should be a formal publication in print relatively soon splitting the genus. Odontomachus and Anochetus may not be separate lineages, but that is still to be studied. Using present understanding of both groups, I have found nesting queens in different places, leaf litter, twigs, logs, under mats of moss on stones and logs, under stones, epiphyte roots and litter accumulated in bromeliads or tree crotches. Some species may have a preferred site whilst others are not so choosy.
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a
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Dear Dr. H Bharti is the specialist on this group better to follow him...............
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As far as I know, there are no herbivorous ants that directly eat plant leaves (not using the plant leaf as medium for fungi cultivation or other purpose). Does anyone know exceptions?
If not, are there explanations, physiological, ecological etc., as to why ants don't eat plant leaves directly?
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The acacia ant (Pseudomyrmex ferrugina) has formed a close symbiotic relationship with a particular species of acacia. The acacia produce 'beltian bodies' on the tips of their leaves which the ants consume. The plant also has large thorns which the ants hollow out and subsequently reside in. In return, the ants provide defence from herbivory and remove any competing vegetation. While beltian bodies technically aren't leaves (they are far richer in fats/sugars) they do seem to be modified leaves, so this is the closest example I can think of.
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There is lot of uncertainty to whether to consider smaller insects like ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) conscious. Considering that consciousness is born out of neural complexity, yet ants do show much social behavior which may point to them being termed as conscious sentient creatures, what are your views?
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It is pretty hard to assess directly if ants are self conscious at colony level by considering the size of their neural networks. On one hand, even if in terms of connected neurons an ant colony is “huge” it is not in terms of possible connections. The number of possible connections is related to brain size, and not number of neurons in a connected network. In a single brain, each neuron can be connected to all the others (potentially). At individual level reduced number of connections is possible on ants, while information between individuals should not be viewed as a neural connection, because only a limited amount of information and combinations are possible. Besides, even if the amount of information provided by millions of individuals results in very complex behaviors at colony level, this does not bring us to “consciousness”, but rather a quite complex emergent state.
As we cannot directly confirm or refuse if ants are self-conscious, a good indicator might be the observation of other behaviors whose apparition is related to consciousness such as art and other “non-fitness related” behaviors (contemplative), resulting from the self-perception of a being and it’s interaction with surrounding world.
I have never observed artistic expressions, or any other kind of behavior on ants that could be related to the philosophical development of the colony. They seek optimization while foraging and collecting resources, their mounds are built to perform as best as possible to maintain colonies’ homeostasis and the workers use their energy to display the necessary tasks for colony survival.
So I personally think that for ants self-consciousness is not achieved, and we should rather expect that “big-brained” animals (or any other convergent information system) like several ape species, cetaceans, or internet will be self-conscious, because the numbers of connections increase exponentially with the number of information units, and this is probably the cause of self-consciousness.
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I want to determine the composition of the hemolymph of some ant species which are pretty small (around 1 cm.). So I have to extract the hemolymph from them. I don't know what is the best way to do so, whether I should take from adults or pupae and what kind of technique should I use. If anybody has experiences in this field, I really would like to have some suggestions.
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We do this with aphids. We put them under parafin oil, under a binocular microscope cut off a leg (we use stylectomy kit but microdissection would work), Haemolymph exudes and can be collected in microcapillaries back filled with paraffin oil. These can be frozen at -20oC until needed. See Wilkinson et al 1997 J Exp Biol 200, 2137-2143.
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On the fungus growing ants symbiont parasite Escovopsis spp.
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Well, I believe that the Cameron Currie's conjectures are, still, the better answer:
"it appears that Escovopsis is vectored between colonies, perhaps by one (or several) of the many species of invertebrates that live in close association with fungus-growing ants (34, 88). These invertebrates, unlike the antworkers themselves, occasionallymove between colonies and thus could potentially be carrying Escovopsis with them. An additional possibility is that Escovopsis has another life history stage that is involved in dispersal." pp.370-371 (Currie, 2001. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 2001. 55:357–80)