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PolBook_CoverA new book on Polarized Light and Polarization Vision in Animal Sciences, edited by Gábor Horváth is out! Jochen Zeil, Willi Ribi, and I were invited to contribute a chapter on Polarization vision in hymenopterans. There were already wonderful and recent reviews by Rüdiger Wehner and Thomas Labhart in 2006. Hence, we briefly reviewed the behaviour, and physiology, and took this as an opportunity to carry out a comparative analysis of anatomical structures required for sensing polarized light. In addition to a detailed analysis of the compound eye, we describe the structure of the ocelli, in ants, bees and wasps and discuss their potential of sensing polarized light. There are several interesting chapters in this book: including an eye-catching review by Stanley Heinze on Polarized-light processing in insect brains.

At a 172$ (AU), the book is a touch expensive, but if you have a chance do check it out.

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Sensilla ampullacea and sensilla coeloconica in the bull ant, Myrmecia pyriformis.

Sensilla ampullacea and sensilla coeloconica in the bull ant, Myrmecia pyriformis. (A) External structure of sensilla ampullacea (white arrows) and coeloconica (black arrow). (B) Cross-section through the antennal cuticle shows the peg of a sensillum coeloconicum within the chamber. (C) Detached ampoule of the sensillum ampullaceum reveals no porosity, but a single large opening (white arrow). (D) Micrograph of an uncoated specimen reveals the sensory peg within the enclosing ampoule of sensilla ampullacea (white arrow). (E) Cross-section through the cuticle shows a sensillum ampullaceum hanging within the antennal lumen by a slender tube (white arrow) connecting to the external opening. (F) Detached sensilla ampullacea showing opening for neural innervation (white arrow). Scale bars = 1 mm.

In an ant society, olfaction and mechanoreception plays a big role for communication, recruitment and for identifying nestmates from non-nestmates. An ant’s antennae is packed with a number of detectors, sensilla, that capture different kinds of information. While ant sensilla have been previously described, there have been huge discrepancies with sensilla often being misidentified or given different names. Together with Fiorella and Jochen, using high quality scanning electron microscope images we described a range of sensilla on the antennae of the the now famous bull ant, Myrmecia pyriformis. Given the inconsistent use of sensillum nomenclature and difficulties associated in reliable identification we consolidated the ant sensilla literature to make possible interspecific comparisons in the future.

Read more here: Esquivel FR, Zeil J & Narendra A. in press. The antennal sensory array of the nocturnal bull ant, Myrmecia pyriformisArthropod Structure and DevelopmentDOI: 10.1016/j.asd.2014.07.004

Worker of the leaf cutter ant, Atta colombica, return home with a leaf it has cut. Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Worker of the leaf cutter ant, Atta colombica, returns home with a leaf it has cut. Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Its been an extremely packed last few weeks and for very good reasons. I was just awarded the Future Fellowship, one of the highly sought mid-career fellowships offered in Australia. This now is a great opportunity to address the neurobiology of ant navigation.

On the trail again..

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Just uploaded images of the wonderful Bullet ant, Paraponera clavata, which I got to see in Barro Colorado Island, Panama earlier this year. Check it out here.

I have put together a bunch of images here, of some cool invertebrates from Panama. I went there to primarily study the army ants, but invariably every now and then got distracted by some colourful and strange looking invertebrates. Enjoy!

Planthopper nymph, Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Planthopper nymph, Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Hopper, Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Hopper, Barro Colorado Island, Panama

I am on my way back (transiting through Miami) after spending sometime at the Barro Colorado Island in Panama. Got to see some very cool animals and spent significant periods observing the army ants over there.

Here is a prelude of whats to follow.

Major worker of the army ant, Eciton hamatum, Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Major worker of the army ant, Eciton hamatum, Barro Colorado Island, Panama

The Bullet ant, Paraponera clavata. Barro Colorado Island, Panama

The Bullet ant, Paraponera clavata. Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Worker of the nocturnal bee, Megalopta genalis. Barro Colorado Island, Panama.

Worker of the nocturnal bee, Megalopta genalis. Barro Colorado Island, Panama.

We drove out to the Sapphire coast, going down all the way to Mallacoota in Victoria over the last few days. Was quite a nice break with sun, ocean and clear blue skies. Took my new camera (Canon Mark III) for a spin. Apart from being on the slightly heavier side from my previous camera (Canon EOS 7D), the new one has been a pleasure to work with. Still learning and discovering its hidden secrets.

Crested Tern, Mallacoota, VIC. Canon Mark III, EF 100-400, ISO 100, f11, 1/400sec

Crested Tern, Mallacoota, Victoria.
Canon EOS 7D, EF 100-400, ISO 100, f11, 1/400sec

Pied Oystercatcher, Merimbula, NSW.  Canon Mark III, EF 100-400, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/1600sec

Pied Oystercatcher, Merimbula, NSW.
Canon Mark III, EF 100-400, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/1600sec