Clonal Raider Ants, Ooceraea biroi (formerly Cerapachys biroi), are tiny, cryptic ants with a number of features that make them stand out in the ant world.
April Nobile / © AntWeb.org / CC-BY-SA-3.0 from Wikimedia.
First of all, they don’t have a separate queen and instead the workers can reproduce asexually, laying eggs that become more workers (hence the name “clonal.”)
Like other army ants, they have a distinct foraging phase (nomadic) and a reproductive phase (statary). They also lack eyes.
The raider part of their names comes from the fact they enter nests of other ant species and steal brood as their primary source of food.
Dr. Daniel Kronauer at the Rockefeller University sees the potential usefulness of this species. He is exploiting genetics and neurobiology to tease apart ant social behavior. You can see more about his work in the video.
(This video is a share and is larger at Scientific American.)
Sounds like a fascinating system to study.
A quick note to let you know I’m going to be doing a bit of spring cleaning behind the scenes on this blog (which means rooting out bad PHP, changing themes, and converting to https).
Hopefully things will continue working without too much interruption. In the meanwhile, enjoy this photograph from the Insects Unlocked Public Domain photostream.
If you live in the North, you might be wishing for an ant sighting about now. The grass is brown and the trees have shed their leaves.
Well, maybe not all the trees. When I went out for a walk I noticed the African sumac, Rhus lancea, has a spread of yellow-green material beneath it. Is it pollen?
I had to check it out, of course.
The tree is flowering.
It isn’t pollen on the ground. Instead, it is a layer of dropped flowers.
What’s that bright cluster?
And another, each with an entrance hole in the center. There are eight or nine bright green clumps in all.
It seemed likely they are ant nests.
Can you spot it? Yes, an ant!
They look like Tetramorium or pavement ants.
One by one the workers carry a flower into the nest entrance and disappear.
The pavement ants are apparently taking advantage of a local abundance during the slow winter months. (The ant is blurry, but I thought the pollen on its head was cool.)
Seeing some ants at work in January? That is an unexpected bounty for me.
Have you ever seen Tetramorium gather flowers or other plant material?
Today we’re featuring Kaitlin M. Baudier, PhD who is currently a post doc in the Social Insect Research Group at Arizona State University.
Dr. Baudier is the creative force behind the AntGirl YouTube Channel. Check it out, particularly the ant playlist.
To give you an idea of her content, here’s her video of a Pogonomyrmex barbatus mating swarm.
Isn’t that incredible? Being close to a social insect swarm is an amazing experience. I hope to see a full blown harvester ant mating swarm like this one some day.
What else does she work on?
Besides social insect swarm aggression research, she also studies tropical ecology and animal behavior. She has some great videos of tropical species, like the ants versus stingless bees.
Ever seen those odd tubercles on ponerine larvae? (If not, the Mississippi Entomological Museum has a close up of an Ponera pensylvanica larva here.) Dr. Baudier is also interested in studying their evolution throughout the subfamily Ponerinae. Take a look at her poster about “sticky fingers.”
If you’d like to learn more, visit her website.
Did I mention she’s also an artist?