Ants named after Obama, Ken Saro-Wiwa


This 23 August 2017 video is called 3D rotation video of Zasphinctus sarowiwai sp. n. paratype worker.

From the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University in Japan:

Say hello to the 3-D Obama ant

Three new ant species named in honor of key figures in conservation — Barack Obama, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and E.O. Wilson — are immortalized as 3-D virtual avatars

August 30, 2017

Biologists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have named three new, rare ant species in Africa after important figures in African biodiversity conservation — a former United States president, a writer-activist, and a world-renowned scientist. Using new scanning technology for documenting species, the OIST researchers compiled scans of the ants to create 3D avatars, giving them, and their namesakes, a measure of immortality.

The first ant species, Zasphinctus obamai, was discovered in the Kakamega Forest National Park, Kenya, located near Mr. Barack Obama’s ancestral family village. The OIST researchers chose to honor Mr. Obama for his prodigious contributions to global biodiversity conservation. The second species, Zasphinctus sarowiwai, was named after Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian writer and environmental activist who, after campaigning against irresponsible oil development, was executed in 1995. The third, Zasphinctus wilsoni, was named after biologist Edward O. Wilson, who is famous for his contributions to sociobiology, ant biology, evolution, and biodiversity conservation. Through his foundation, Wilson has contributed to the resurgence of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, which is one of Africa’s most successful wildlife restoration stories.

To create the 3D avatars, “we used X-ray microtomography, or micro-CT, which is comparable to when you go to the doctor and get a CT scan but at much higher resolution, to scan very small insects,” explains Dr. Francisco Hita Garcia, first author on the study and a member of the Biodiversity and Biocomplexity Unit at OIST.

The OIST research team then compiled the scans into 3D reconstructions of the ants — identical to their originals down to the thinnest hair on the tiniest leg. The reconstructions hint at a future of virtual taxonomy with the potential to alleviate issues of time, money, and specimen damage, and realize new horizons of inquiry into hard-to-reach details, such as the thickness of an ant’s exoskeleton.

The following shows an interactive model of a whole-body 3D reconstruction of the Obama ant: Zasphinctus obamai.

This 23 August 2017 video is called 3D rotation video of Zasphinctus obamai sp. n. holotype worker.

It is an exact replica of a physical specimen that the OIST researchers collected during field work in the Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya and scanned using micro-CT.

There are plenty of advantages to creating these models. For example, since they are made using micro-CT technology, the original, physical specimens are recreated on both the outside and inside. As such, if researchers wanted to study the way the inside of an ant’s mouth is organized, they could simply virtually remove the outside parts that are in the way — something that cannot be done on a physical specimen without damaging it. In their study, the OIST researchers did precisely this.

In addition to reconstructing and examining the ants’ mouthparts, the OIST researchers also visualized the muscles inside of the ants’ bodies and measured the thickness of their skin, called the cuticle, all with the help of the virtually reconstructed 3D models.

“We saw things that nobody ever looked at,” Dr. Hita Garcia explains, and through those new observations the research team was able to confirm details about the ants’ lifestyles. Other species of Zasphinctus from outside Africa are known to be predators of other ants, and the mouthparts, musculature, and skin-thickness data from the OIST researchers’ study all provide evidence that the African Zasphinctus ants are top predators as well. “Normally when you describe a new species, you don’t know much about its biology,” Dr. Hita Garcia explains, but with the 3D reconstructions researchers can discover details right away.

Another advantage of 3D models is that they can be easily accessed from anywhere. Especially for specimens that are rare, examining them requires a lot of time and money to coordinate — such as an expensive plane ticket to visit a museum in Nairobi. This is not the case with the 3D models. “If someone wants to see the Obama ant, they can download it, look at it, and 3D print it,” Dr. Hita Garcia explains.

Yet despite advances in scanning capabilities, the world of virtual taxonomy is not yet ready to be realized. For one, there are not enough research labs and institutes that provide access to micro-CT scanners. “We have millions of species on the planet, but we have 3D models for only a handful,” Dr. Hita Garcia explains. The technology is ready, the scientific community just needs the means and incentive to apply it, as well as to embrace it.

Until that future arrives, however, the OIST researchers can focus on using the unique names of the three new ants for altruistic purposes. “Since these ants are from very threatened habitats in Africa, we wanted to pick names that draw attention to the environment, and not just the ants,” Dr. Hita Garcia explains. The rainforests in equatorial Africa, as well as the savannah in Mozambique, needs to be protected before the habitats and animals living within them are destroyed.

In every animal community, several species in the same group share habitats. An international team has chosen ants to create the largest public-access database on the cohabitation of these insects. The goal is to understand their tricks for coexistence and how they respond to invasive species and climate change: here.

Advertisements

Small ant transports big dead beetle


This 10 August 2017 video is about a small ant transporting a big dead beetle.

Ants are strong.

Carin van Dodewaard from the Netherlands made this video.

Ant-mimicking jumping spiders protect themselves


This 2012 video is called Ant mimic jumping spider – Japan Myrmarachne.

From Cornell University in the USA:

Walking like ants gives spiders a chance

July 14, 2017

Summary: To avoid being eaten, some jumping spiders pretend to be ants, a new study has found. Protective mimicry is a remarkable example of adaptive evolution: Moths can be colored like butterflies and grasshoppers may look like tiger beetles. While most mimicry studies focus on traits like color and shape, the researchers in this work used multiple high-speed cameras and behavioral experiments to pinpoint how the spider’s movements mimic ants.

Humans aren’t the only actors on the planet. To avoid being eaten, some jumping spiders pretend to be ants, according to Cornell University research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Ants are aggressive at defending themselves: They are well-armed with bites, stings and formic acid. Ant-mimicking jumping spiders — Myrmarachne formicaria — in contrast, can’t do much more than run on their eight legs when attacked. Not surprisingly, insect predators tend to prefer spiders over ants, so appearing to be an ant confers significant protection.

Protective mimicry is a remarkable example of adaptive evolution: Moths can be colored like butterflies and grasshoppers may look like tiger beetles. While most mimicry studies focus on traits like color and shape, the researchers used multiple high-speed cameras and behavioral experiments to pinpoint how the spider’s movements mimic ants.

Ant-mimicking spiders walk using all eight legs but pause frequently to raise their forelegs to mimic ant antennae. When walking, they take winding trajectories of about five to 10 body lengths, which made them look like ants following pheromone trails. While the researchers could see what the spiders were doing thanks to high-speed cameras, many potential predators have slower visual systems, so that to them the mimics appear to be moving just like an ant would.

The researchers note that the findings “highlight the importance of dynamic behaviors and observer perception in mimicry.”

Army ants video


This video says about itself:

Army Ants Rampage Through The Forest – The Hunt – BBC Earth

8 July 2017

Boasting a sensory system of 2 million antennae, this colony of Army Ants are a formidable proposition for anything alive which may cross their path. These dynamic insects, despite being blind, are able to transcend their size by working as a complete unit.

Fire ants build towers with three simple rules, by Sarah Zielinski, 2:54pm, July 21, 2017.

Ants and dead dragonfly


This 20 June 2017 video is about a dragonfly killed by a cat. After its death, the dragonfly attracted many ants.

Eight-year-old Gianni from the Netherlands made this video.