Theaters across the U.S. have made good money from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Audiences have flocked to see this film about a fictional ragtag team setting out to save the Rebellion. Yet few know about a moving story shared by a rebel not from a galaxy far, far away, but from Xinjiang, China. Rebiya Kadeer, a Uyghur civil rights activist, shared a story about a bird and a little ant at the beginning of her 2009 book, Dragon Fighter: One Woman’s Epic Struggle for Peace with ChinaThis story has been reproduced below. Enjoy!

Trap-jaw ants are awesome – few dispute this fact. Yet despite the remarkable nature of the trap-jaw mandibular structure, quantitative assessments of predator-prey interactions and ecology in this group are fairly rare. This is particularly surprising given that trap-jaw ants are an ideal system for understanding how morphological structures vary within species across a wide geographic range. Recognizing this utility, Dr. Kyohsuke Ohkawara and colleagues recently conducted an interesting study in this group, which was published last month. They investigated the impact of variations in prey size on the shape of mandibles in Japanese trap-jaw ants.

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Head view of the trap-jaw ant Strumigenys lewisi. Photo: AntWeb

Pheidole is one of the most diverse ant genera in the world, with 1,004 currently described species. This genus is known for having two worker castes – a “minor” and a “major”. The major caste typically sports a head that is comically larger than minor heads. You can see why Pheidole species are called the “big-headed ants”:

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Two majors and a minor of Pheidole xerophila. Photo: Alex Wild

This ant group provides an excellent study system for investigating a fundamental question in ant research: How, and why, do major and minor worker castes evolve? Dr. Jo-anne Holley and colleagues addressed just this question in a study published earlier this year.

During the summer of 2013, leaks by Edward Snowden revealed to the world the extent of domestic and foreign surveillance by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). These revelations included the PRISM program, XKeyscore, and collaborations with phone companies to sweep up phone records. But one document, at the time, received comparably less press: the NSA product catalog offensively named the ANT catalog.

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One item in the NSA ANT catalog, revealed December 29th, 2013