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Archive for the ‘Formicidae’ Category

Along with Chloe and Fiorella, I drove over 1600 kilometeres west from Canberra to a town called Poochera in South Australia. This place is THE mecca for ant people. It is here that Bob Taylor discovered a colony of the oldest living ant, Nothomyrmecia macrops in the late 1970s. Since then several ant researchers from across the world have visited Poochera to watch this elusive cold-loving nocturnal ant.

Our first night here was a new moon day and we had no luck with the ants. But over the last couple of nights and very early mornings we have now had a great opportunity to watch several foraging individuals. These ants, unlike Myrmecia, are very timid and often play dead when disturbed. We just located some nests of these ants, which promises to be an exciting few days ahead!

Images and videos to follow upon return!

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Ant gallery just got a big update: Eciton mexicanum, from Mexico

Sickle-like mandibles in the major worker of the Mexican Army ant, Eciton mexicanum

Single lens compound eye in the Mexican Army ant, Eciton mexicanum

Major and minor worker of the Mexican Army ant, Eciton mexicanum

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Here is a cool Trap jaw ant, Orectognathus. These are Dacetine ants, known from Australia and Southeast Asia. They typically nest is soil. One of our recent visitors in the lab, Marc Seid, found and collected a colony of these ants with their brood and a queen from Murramarang National Park, NSW. Strangely enough, the workers did not feed on collembolans that I provided them, but only fed on maple syrup. With just this food source, the colony has survived over the last 2 months with no fatalities.

Update: More pictures of Orectognathus here.

Photo: 

Minor worker of Orectognathus species with its larvae, photographed in the lab.

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For the past few weeks I have been ardently trying to catch up on what’s known about ants segregating their niche temporally for foraging. Turns out that there are several studies that address temporal shifts in ants, mostly at the community level, and very few that actually address temporal foraging patterns. Interestingly, I learnt that two Camponotus species, C. socius and C. floridanus exploit the same honeydew sources with socius being diurnal and floridanus nocturnal. However heartening it was to learn this, its frustrating that there is no more information [ex: seasonal differences, variation in castes, facet count, competition] available about this observation from Central Florida, USA which is reported in 4 lines in The Ants [p-383], as ‘we made similar observations’. This more so, because temporal niche partitioning in foraging was recently shown in four species of Australian bull ants, Myrmecia species where all four species of ants rely on the same carbohydrate source (plant sap) produced by the same tree.

For what its worth, here are the two Camponotus species:
The diurnal Camponotus socius
Source [Mississippi Entomological Museum]

The nocturnal Camponotus floridanus 

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It is that time of the year, when nuptial flights of ants are galore in Australia. In the last few weeks, colonies of the ant Camponotus consobrinus have had their nuptial flights in Canberra. The first flight I recorded was on December 11 and I saw several more on December 18 aswell. These ants are nocturnal and are commonly found in and around Canberra and Sydney. While observing the alates (winged forms) going in out and of their nest and some taking flight, I noticed that the males of this ant had a strangely long antennae. Upon close observation, I noticed that in fact the scape was distinctly long, which is quite unlike any other male ant I have seen. I wonder if long scape in males is seen in other species aswell..any takes on this?

Male Camponotus consobrinus licking its first pair of legs by dragging it in between its mandibles. Note the long scape that originates from the clypeal region.

A male Camponotus consobrinus draws its first pair of legs between its mandibles to clean it. Note the long scape that originates from the clypeal region.

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