Thursday, June 10, 2010

A new Asphinctopone and way of publishing

Peter Hawkes just published the description of a new species of Asphinctopone, A. pilosa. This is an interesting read and shows some ways on how to present taxonomic data.

The extensive description of only one specimen, the holotype, is followed by lavish, standard digital photography, and most importantly, distribution maps. It shows not just where the ant has been found, but where its congers have been found, pointing out that this find is important because it dramatically expands the distribution to the East of Africa. What I like though is that he added an additional map, the potential distribution map derived from a bioclimatic model (BIOCLIM). One might discuss, whether this approach can be applied to an entire genus (as done here) rather than a single species, but it shows clearly a way that would help to understand the distribution of species much better than how we ordinarily present our data.
The missing point is, that the data of this analyis is not available nor in the present publication nor GBIF.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How many specimens are good enough for a description?

Paknia and Radchencko describe in their recent paper two new Cataglyphis species from Iran: Cataglyphis pubescens and Cataglyphis stigmatus based samples from one and two locations respectively.

The descriptions are not accompanied by either DNA (Bar-)-Codes nor adequate images. The gray scale images do not live up to standards in the ant world (, nor are they good enough to see the characters, nor are they available on existing antsites, not are the males described whose genitalia are the ultimate species level identification tool.

This study contributes to a fauna that is only known from literature references, including a compilation of names that one ought to believe the authors. That this could be done differently demonstrate to recent publications by McArthur and Heterick covering both Australia: The former with a lavishly illustrated compendium and key of the Camponotus of South Australia, the latter with a detailed account and key to the ants of Western Australia.

For anybody working in such an area, it would be of tremendous help, if those species would properly be documented.
I also would recommend to refrain from describing new species from one or two samples outside the context of a generic revision that provides the background why this species deserves to be described based on such poor data.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Of wood ants and bioindicators

Bernasconi et al concluded in their study of European wood ants that their result "represents a clear breakthrough for discriminating between F. lugubris and F. paralugubris and is likely to be helpful in large-scale biomonitoring".

The red wood ants are the dream candidate of the last fifty years for bio-control and monitoring, but they made it never to be actually used. Why do they remain a candidate? May be there is something behind, that they are nevertheless not as good and too complicated and little understand as all the many authors would like to have it. Citing Gösswald 1990 (G¨osswald, K. (1990) Die Waldameise. Band 2: Die Waldameise
in ¨Okosystem Wald, ihr Nutzen und ihre Hege. AULA-Verlag,
Wiesbaden.) seems to be rather ironic and making the point.

This study is also a part of the tradition of European taxonomists and related specialists to claim by solving a local problem to have found the solution to the complex taxonomy, better complex demography of wood ants. First, wood ants are not just lugubris and paralugubris, but include more species. Second, they both have an extensive range with quiet some variation, especially the widely distributed lugubris. Third, there is hybridization observed in several populations.

Why not do what Dlussky already 1967 in this revision of the genus suggested, that the entire populations ought be included? If this genus is so important, a large scale study should be conducted to clean up the mess and produce genetic markers that are based on the entire population of wood ants.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

All 2009 ant taxonomy publications online

We are almost there where we want to be: To have an instant feed of new ant taxonomy publications into the Web, through linking the taxpub-converted treatmetents from EOL, Zoobank, HNS. We are not there, because we still get new publications, such as Hetericks "Ants of Western Australia". But this shows the sluggishness of our publication system. First, few people are aware of what is happening. Then it is published locally, and wouldn't there be connections, nobody besides few people in Western Australia and some ant colleagues would know about this.

[Sorry, I can't add link, because my system at the AMNH is down due to a snowstorm on the East coast of the US - we'll take care of this later]