Upset in Florida: Ant species wins big, collects skulls

This intimidating ant is a species in the genus Odontomachus:

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Image: Alex Wild

Observe the powerful mandibles, the large eyes, the menacing form. Conventional wisdom must assume that such a fierce warrior is a natural winner in the horse ant race that is life.

Get ready for the upset.

This pleasant ant is a species in the genus Formica:

Formica glacialis
Image: Alex Wild

Charm yourself with the squishy form, the nondescript appearance, the wilting flower demeanor. Think such an ant is a loser in life?

Think again.

Dr. Adrian Smith, head of the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences & North Carolina State University, just released a remarkable video from his lab about new work on fights between Odontomachus and Formica ants… and let’s just say that Odontomachus is NOT the skull collector!

 

Editor’s Note: YouTube Correspondant John Turner contributed to reporting.

Rutgers University Press Release Highlights Ant Research on Campus

Earlier this week, a staff member at Rutgers – Camden Campus News reached out to The Daily Ant with an exciting press release. The release highlights the work of Sammy Schofield, a researcher and undergraduate student in Dr. Amy Savage lab:

Schofield’s project examines how fine-scale habitat complexity affects the diversity of species of arthropods such as ants in high-stress environments. Schofield is monitoring the changing types and frequencies of arthropod species at stops along the NJ Transit River Line in Camden and Trenton. At each of eight locations, she observes one grassy section near a River Line stop in its natural state. Nearby, she lays down bricks in grassy areas to create a few patterns to observe what insects are attracted to the more complex patterns.

Schofield further notes, as quoted in the release, that Camden is “a very good representation of a high-stress environment,” and that “[t]here’s constantly people coming in and out and there is always trash everywhere so I think it’s a very good indicator of a broader city pattern.”

Needless to say, this research on ants (and other critters) is of direct importance to understanding drivers of insect diversity in cities, and possibly also instructive on how cities might be able to promote healthy insect diversity in the most anthropogenically-disturbed habitats in the world. Furthermore, we are thrilled to read that Schofield is a nontraditional college student, having taken a break in her college career for five years working as a barista. We believe that it is important that universities exist as big-colony institutions, promoting and supporting the work of students and researchers that have not followed “traditional” routes towards a given career. And of course, it’s even better if some interesting, impactful ant research flows from such support!

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Sammy Schofield, myrmecologist | Photo: Rutgers – Camden Campus News

For now, keep your eye on this space – we’ll be sure to update our readers as soon as Schofield publishes her first manuscript on this work!

Ant Adult Swims

We already know that spiny ants are cool. But did you know that the first well-documented case of directed, intentional swimming by ants is in the spiny ant genus, Polyrhachis? Maybe we’re biased, but we think you will definitely want to watch this classic BBC Earth video of the ant-paddling Polyrhachis sokolova:

 

The Mother of Antvention

Imagine that you are a mango farmer in Thailand. You’re happy with your mango crop, and happily head off to the market to sell your delicious fruit. There, you expect to sell out, but instead find that few passerby are interested in your produce. To add antsult to injury, you look at a nearby stall and see that larvae of the weaver ant, Oecophylla, are flying off the shelves! It seems that shoppers simply love the white, squishy, nutritious baby ants. What do you do?

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Hungry yet? Image: Alex Wild

If you’re a smart farmer, like the one featured below, you realize that weaver ants love nesting in mango trees, and you get to work attracting the hardworking insects to your farmland. Thailand Correspondant Pitoon Kongnoo shared this story with us, and sent along a report by Thai PBS on the antgenious farmer. The video is in Thai, but the footage is fairly self-explanatory even for those whose Thai is limited to “มด”. Enjoy!

Philosophy Phriday: The Parable of the Ants

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the sixtieth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Julia Driver.


“While conducting research in Europe I came across the following, which I have transcribed from a manuscript found between the pages of an antiquarian book on household management entitled SELF GOVERNANCE.  It appears that this is [Bernard] Mandeville’s first attempt to convey his ideas via a fable or a parable.  This version was rejected in favor of THE FABLE OF THE BEES.  However, it is obviously the case that Mandeville also had great admiration for Ants.” — Julia Driver

 

THE PARABLE OF THE ANTS
THE Rustling Nest: OR, Virtue needs Vice

A meand’ring nest, provision’d with ANTS
Wandering thoughts, restless cants
Engaged the idle, but virtue reigns
Amongst the enterprising, peace obtains.
Tho’ peace is weak that is not policed
By those with hearts of avarice,
Who plot and toil to guard the nest,
For profit plain, forget the rest.

The nest is only safe with fight,
Greed and envy, keep the light,
The snake will seek to ruin the nice
The only guard a private VICE
Our hero ant will seek its death
And cry no tears, nor give him breath.

Ants, industrious, straight, and wise,
The nest, say sages, paradise.
An even mix of good and mine
The ANT sees, and all is fine.
Suppose a nest in virtue grue
And banish’d vice, became too few,
Yet every part was full of virtue,
The whole a chaos, without the glue
Of avarice, cheats, emoluments,
There was not an ant who whose own two cents
Did not go to help his fellow ants,
Til, alas, they helped each other dance,
Each other to the very grave,
By the hand of the invisible knave.

Our VIRTUOUS nest is doomed to grieve
For publick good requires to weave
Some vice with virtue, so we say
New sages, ANTS, present the way.

Bernard Mandeville


julia_anu_bwDr. Julia Driver is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis.  Her research interests lie in Ethics, Metaethics, and Moral Psychology.  She received her Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University. She is Vice-President, and President-Elect, of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Minimal Virtue.

A Note on Philosophy Phridays

Lovers of ant philosophy – that is, lovers of philosophy – will have noticed that our last Philosophy Phridays contribution was published on July 27th (an interesting piece on doubting ants by Dr. Andrew Moon). Such philosophy-lovers will be happy to hear that this time gap emphatically does NOT signal the death of our most world-famous series. In fact, we already have two upcoming contributions in the wings, and we’re confident you’re going to love them as much as you’ve loved each previous installment.

Until next Phriday, we’re thrilled to announce that Philosophy Phridays was recently featured on the widely-read American Philosophical Association (APA) Blog! The focus of the piece, penned by our very own Editor-In-Chief Benjamin Blanchard, is on the exciting Philosophy Phridays Phriends of the Phield event hosted by The Daily Ant during the APA Central Meeting in Chicago in February. If you support ants, make sure to check out the story!

Continue reading “A Note on Philosophy Phridays”

World Ant Day: A Global Celebration

We wish all of our readers a simply thrilling 1st World Ant Day!

Myrmecologist Dr. Mike Kaspari, in a flash of inspiration, realized that World Ant Day did not yet exist. Thus, on April 21st, he announced a date for a new holiday:

On July 23rd, Dr. Kaspari proposed a special way to celebrate World Ant Day, for those on Twitter:

Continue reading “World Ant Day: A Global Celebration”

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