Well, despite my best efforts, I have once again been unable to post more regularly due to tests, quizzes, and ants. As is proper, the ants have consumed most of my time, so I will explain here what it is that I have been doing with these little critters.
I am working with Dr. Evan Economo, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. Broadly speaking, we have been researching the biodiversity of Pacific island ants. Last year I devoted most of my time to Fiji, but this year I have focused almost exclusively on the Solomon Islands. My part in the research largely pertains to taxonomy – that is, I’ve spent many, many, many hours identifying many, many, many ants. Some examples from AntWeb are below:
This is a major of Pheidole sexspinosa. Pheidole majors have comically large heads, particularly when compared to their respective minors:
Odontomachus simillimus is a different kind of comical, with a unique adaptation:
I think Eurhopalothrix procera looks really cool – before this research, I didn’t even know ants could look like this:
But ants of the Solomon Islands aren’t all red. Take, for example, Paraparatrechina minutula, which has the adaptation of being cute:
Perhaps my favorite of all (also red) is Colobostruma foliacea, because of its flat head:
These are only five of the 100 morphospecies collected, but I think they are a good representation of the diversity on these tropical islands. This most recent survey only included the island of Makira, and the results will serve inform future collection efforts. I also made a pretty species accumulation curve:
Because this does not attain an asymptote, further collecting would likely yield more species! Yay!
Anyways, if you don’t like ants, you should.