Costa Rica…
January 22, 2010, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Thoughts

Blogging will take a break for the next two months for cause of travelling in Costa Rica and Panama.

I will be taking the OTS course in Tropical Ecology and will come back at the end of March.

Hopefully, I should be able to take a lot of ant pictures during my trip.

Before to leave, I have to fill a commitment.

In a previous blog, I said that if someone could give me 5 good reasons to like Paratrechina (now Nylanderia), I would write a poem. Well, James Trager gave me several reasons, and all good, so here is my poem.

I apologize for those of you that appreciate poetry in Shakespeare language, but I felt more comfortable to do so in Rabelais language (but the comparison stop here).

Nylanderia cours dans la litière du bois

Frénétiquement, à la recherche d’une proie

Les poils hirsutes et la cuticule brillante,

Les mandibules légèrement ballantes.

Qu’un cadavre frais d’insecte se présente

Et c’est une brève inspection qui commence.

Pas de temps à perdre, les antennes dansent

Avant la venue des autres dominantes.

Recruter, récolter sont les impératifs

Pour nourrir la colonie et ses œufs natifs.

Soudain les longues antennes goûtent l’air

D’une odeur ni amicale, ni familière.

A retraite honorable, suis un repas

Pour celles qu’on appelait Paratrechina.

Blog will resume shortly
December 1, 2009, 10:55 am
Filed under: Thoughts

I have been very quiet lately on blogging. Well, the reason is that I was passing the comprehensive examinations of my PhD. Now the good news is that I got them, so I am officially PhD candidate. Yeah!

The other good news is that I should be able to keep you posted concerning the website improvements and developments. We are preparing a new design for the website, with updates on the new genera that have been described recently. Hopefully, it should be ready before the end of the year…



Species and genus names
October 21, 2009, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Thoughts | Tags: , ,

Species and genus names are often repulsive for many students, and the picture below illustrates probably how a young student would dream his pathway in biology.


However, names often have a function and/ or a story. This is what I would like to talk about today.

Species names can have a specific function which is to carry some information relative to the species itself. For example, it can provide information on the color, such as in Lasius niger (niger in latin means black), the morphology (Pheidole megacephala = giant head), the size (Plagiolepis pygmaea),  the behavior or ecology (Camponotus sylvaticus, sylva means forest in latin), on the provenance (Brachymyrmex patagonicus, from Patagonia in Argentina),…

But it can also be more personal, …

Often the author chooses a name in homage to someone else. Most of the time this is one of their colleague or less often  a member of their family. For example the new world genus Forelius was described in 1888 by the Italian myrmecologist Carlos Emery in honor of the Swiss Auguste Forel, and a few years later, in 1912 Forel described the new Oriental genus Emeryopone (can you guess in honor of who?). One more example with the beautiful African genus Santschiella described by Auguste Forel in 1916 probably in honor of the Italian myrmecologist Felix Sanstchi. Some other obvious genera names dedicated to myrmecologists are Bondroitia, Mayriella, Rogeria, or Wasmannia.

However, sometimes the species name is more surprising. For example today, I went through Pheidole harrisonfordi described by E.O. Wilson in 2003. It first made me laugh, but then I learned, thanks to my colleague Mike Weiser,  that Harrison Ford was really involved into conservation, especially with Conservation International. I found these two links that describes a little more the  reason why Han Solo deserved an ant species dedicated: CI link 1; and CI link 2

Another story which was famous a few years ago was the description by Brian Fisher in 2005 of a new ant from Madagascar: Proceratium google.  More info available on the official Google blog.

An other ant name that I like is the east European ant, Bothriomyrmex communista, described by Santschi from a specimen collected in Crimea (Russia) in 1919. Two years after the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917. Who said that History and Biology could not get along with each other?

Finally a name that has intrigued me at some point was Stenamma debile. In French (my native language), “debile” means stupid/ idiot. I thought that maybe A. Forster, the myrmecologist that described this species, was upset the day he described the species and decided to pass his frustration on the subject of his research. The fact is that in Latin, “debile” means weak, and so it refers probably to the morphology of the ant than its intellectual capacity!  And when I looked at the picture of S. debile, it can be perceived as a sort of fragile ant.

Let me know if you have more anecdotes or some name that you prefer for some reasons.

Save the ants!
October 20, 2009, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Thoughts

Yesterday morning, when I parked my car in the university parking deck I noticed that the car just beside mine add a sticker that for one time would make me jealous. I usually don’t care for car stickers and North Carolina has probably the world records for the number of car stickers per habitant (and more often I would prefer don’t see them). Anyway this time the sticker said: ” Save the ants”

What? a sticker dedicated to the object of my deep passion. Believe me, I even thought to take some time to remove it from the car to put it on mine. But finally this thought cross my brain for less than 0.2 second and I finally resigned.

Anyway, here is a picture of the sticker I saw yesterday that I was able to track on internet. This one was found on a door of a fridge… I should put one in my kitchen which is invaded every summer by the odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile, that my girlfriend forces me to kill (she loves ants but not in our kitchen).


October 17, 2009, 1:30 pm
Filed under: Thoughts

I have to say, that Internet is a fantastic tool (that’s obvious, I know) to look for articles and records. However, sometimes it can be a bit frustrating.  Here is why.

Now that the maps are done (even if they are still evolving), I like once in a while, or often, to try to track some interpolations that I have made (in blue), to see if eventually they could turn as a real record (in green). Usually, the research in Google is straight forward. Imagine to search for Amblyopone in Algeria (which I am still looking for), and Google scholar will return 13 links (which unfortunately did not work ). Now let’s imagine that you want to look for Azteca in Yucatan, and this time, you will see 4860 results which have nothing to do with myrmecology, but more with History (fabulous subject but pointless in my research). Ahhhhh Misere!

Hopefully, this is very rare, and as Azteca was described in 1878, by the Swiss myrmecologist August Forel, I think I can forgive him 🙂 . Especially if I add Formicidae into my Google research which turn to give me finally only 43 results. So everything is doing well, and let’s the genera hunting continue in the abyss of Internet.