(Thank you to Ti Eriksson at ASU for the honey pot ant replete.)
Ever heard about an ant species and wondered about its distribution? There's an awesome new website that can put the world of ants at your finger tips: Antmaps.org.
This fully interactive resource shows where to find some 15,000 different species and subspecies of ants. The cover map shows species richness or number of ant species found in a given region. Color coding of retrieved maps reveals whether the ants are native, introduced, or survive indoors, as well.
Say you want to find the distribution of the army ant, Eciton burchelli.
(Public domain photograph of Eciton burchelli by Alex Wild)
With a few simple clicks and scroll down menus, you can soon see:
According to the map, Eciton burchelli is found in Central and South America. The green areas indicate the areas where the army ants are native.
Sometimes these types of websites are revealed too soon and are clunky to use, but that is not the case here. The map creation process seems to have all the "bugs" worked out, so to speak. Antmaps turns out to be a quick way to get an idea of where to find a particular species of ant without searching through hundreds of references by hand. The authors do concede that the database is a work in progress and ask that myrmecologists help verify the records by reporting errors.
Antmaps.org is a joint venture between the University of Hong Kong and the Okinawa Institute of Sciences and Technology, led by Dr. Benoit Guenard and Evan Economo, in collaboration with Michael Weiser, Kiko Gomez, and Nitish Narula, among others. It is part of the The Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics (GABI) project.
Have you used Antmaps yet? What did you think of it?
How very far we have come in the last 100 years or so. If you haven't thought about that fact lately, compare Anatomy of the Honey Bee by R.E. Snodgrass (1910) (or Cornell University Press, 1985), - parts of which are available at Extension.org - with the ultra-modern Bee by Rose-Lynn Fisher, with a foreword by Verlyn Klinkenborg (2010, Princeton Architectural Press).
Featuring an outstanding series of scanning electron microscope photos, Bee is a visual treat. As you can see from Fisher's examples on her website, this is a mite's view of a honey bee where eye hairs look like forests and pollen grains resemble boulders. It is a world Snodgrass could only dream of glimpsing.
The text that accompanies the photographs is sparse, but to the point, which is direct contrast to the text-heavy Anatomy of the Honey Bee.
Anatomy of the Honey Bee, however, still remains relevant. It covers far more than just external structures, including development and internal anatomy. Carefully labelled cut-away and exploded views make identification of individual structures much easier.
In fact, these two books complement each other nicely. A serious student of honey bees will want to look at them both ways.
Doesn't comparing these two books make you wonder what the next 100 years will bring?