My friend and colleague Joseph Parker at Columbia University is currently raising funds to conduct field work in Peru. His objective is to collected and bring back specimens for molecular data in order to reconstruct the Pselaphinae tree of life. These are an extremely diverse group of beetles that have evolved to infiltrate ant and termite nests on more than one occasion. Joe is particularly interested in answer the question of why the pelaphines have turned to myrmecophily so many times and what drives the evolution of tantalizing morphologies that accompany such sifts in ecology.
Please click the link bellow and help as much as you can.
After more than four hours of flipping rocks, we finally uncover a nest with a Hetaerius specimen.
It is a joyous feeling, finding a target of a collecting trip.
Still flipping sandstone slabs that hug the ground. We were finding the appropriate Camponotus sp. but no sign of Hetaerius yet.
On the flip-side, Taro finds more Reticulitermes guests.
Trichopsenius sp. is a limuloid (tear-drop shaped) termitophile. They are able to mimic host odors and remain undetected.
Trichopsenius is an early diverging lineage of aleocharine rove beetles, and lack the abdominal defensive gland, which is a synapomorphy for all higher aleocharines. The tribe that this genus is a type for, has the hind coxa fused to the metasternum, and the trochanter articulates directly with the body. I don’t quite understand the functional significance of this morphological modification, but possible allowing more compact lateral swinging motions of the hind legs. This may be adaptive for termitophiles (the tribe is entirely termitophilous) for maintaining a low profile while scavenging the nest.
Interestingly, all lower aleocharines that are obligatory inquilines, are always termitophiles. Termites are a slightly older lineage compared to ants. Could this pattern signify a larger temporal evolutionary phenomenon?
We have a visitor from France, here to study histerids. This Sunday we went hunting for Hetaerius, a myrmecophilous histerid genus. South of Lawrence, Kansas, Hetaerius are found with Camponotus (Tanaemyrmex) sp./spp.
Our destination was an upland woodland with scattered sandstone outcrops. The sandstone allows for easy (we flip the rocks) access to the nests of ants and termites, and hopefully to Hetaerius.
Our first find: Philotermes sp.
Philotermes sp. runs among Reticulitermes sp. termites with its abdomen curved over its body.
Dr. Margaret Thayer and Dr. Al Newton, staphylinid experts from the Field Museum of Natural History, were visiting us at the University of Kansas this past week. Prior to their departure, we decided to try and get a taste of Kansas eastern deciduous forest.
I decided to take this opportunity to look for Deinopsis, but after some time with no sign of the beetles, I quickly switched to myrmecophile collecting.
Geodromicus brunneus is one of the largest and most brilliantly colored species of Geodromicus in North America.
I think this is a female Batrisodes lineaticollis, found with Lasius sp. under bark.
Limulodes paradoxus runs among ant feet.
Limulodes paradoxus with Aphaenogaster ants under a flat stone. These tiny feather winged beetles are blind and occur in the ant nests of several ant species. I have also collected them with Lasius umbratus.
Trichiusa compacta I think. This species I find in small numbers and associated with dry dead wood. This particular individual was sifted from dry tree hole debris.
Ceophyllus monilis with Lasius sp. under a large flat rock. As I lifted the rock over, the ants hastily carried off their aphid livestock.
Ceophyllus monilis is arguably the largest pselaphine species in North America. This enigmatic myrmecophile is quite widespread where host Lasius spp. are present.