Monthly Archives: April 2010

Recently I’ve been intrigued by the prospect that, given large data matricies, missing data may not be as big of an issue as one may initially assume. This is exciting when, like aleocharines that live with ants and termites, your focal group shows a combination of being speciose and rare.

Exciting – that’s why lately I’ve been looking for potential morphological character systems that could be evolutionarily informative – especially in reproductive organs. Although the example is limited to the penis (aedeagus), Tishechkin & Caterino (2009) clearly articulate the general reasoning why genitalia might be useful for myrmecophiles:

Those characters [especially of male genitalia] provide one of the best morphological character systems in a taxon in which the external morphology appears to have evolved under strong, host-imposed selection pressure leading to convergent morphologies in distantly related lineages.

Although the phrasing “host-imposed” is rather nebulous and spooky, I generally agree that it seems likely that in many cases (I can see myrmecophilly indirectly interfering with reproductive organ morphology), the reproductive system should be relatively free of direct selective pressures based on a myrmecophilous life style. This, you would think, would also apply to internal reproductive structures.

Meronera venestula, male reproductive system

Yesterday I ripped out some male sexy time organs in Meronera venestula (females to come, if you must know, I messed up my female dissections). A lot larger then I expected, if I may add. Interestingly, the individual testis is composed of four lobes, bifurcated bean-shaped gland and a mysterious gland on the left.

This was the first male internal reproductive system that I’ve observed in a staphylinid and was very fascinating.

As requested, although admittedly I was merely too lazy to upload the photos, nonetheless the notorious copper heads.

The copper head I was stepping on

The copper head I backed into as I fled the first one

The individual I backed into was neatly coiled just bellow a shallow layer of dead leaves. Superbly blended into its surroundings, I can only imagine how many we walk by in our wilderness forays.

I took care of my collembola and ptiliid colonies this afternoon. In case you were wondering, they’re doing well. Although, there is a nematode infestation in my collembola colony but this is a welcome invasion. The collembola and nematodes are feeders anyways.

I was almost in a pinch, thrice, collecting the other day.

Three days after my previous rattle snake encounter, I headed back out to the same locality. By then, I had completely forgotten about the rattle snake and failed to notice that I was rather close to where I had seen it, but slightly off the trail. My mind was on a single track – I had to flip more rocks then break open logs for ants, that was all that mattered.

Next thing I know, I hear a very familiar rattle, I jump back and low and behold, the same large rattle snake was coiled and rattling, a foot away from where I had been previously standing. Close encounter number one.

Collecting was sucking, but I kept going, I really wanted to make it worth my time. I look to my left and I see a nice rotting conifer with peeling bark. I walk over and hack at it, uncovering galleries of Reticulitermes termites. Bending over, I examine the galleries for some time. With no guests uncovered, I get ready to stand up when I notice that I’m stepping on the tail end of a copper head, but the darn thing was merely trying to slither away, trapped by my stupid foot. Close encounter number two.

I quickly back away and the copper head bursts a little forward, immediately settling down in a patch of sunlight not far in front. I then thought to myself that a photo would be nice, so I positions myself and take a few shots.

Finished photographing, I look at my feet, and there is another damn copper head, litterally coiled at my toes; I must have backed up right next to it and luckly didn’t step on another one. Close encounter number three.

To top it all off, I hacked myself in the shun with my log bust’n tool and I had to pull the blade out of my leg. Blood trickling, I retired sluggishly to my car without much in my vials to make my day.

Sexy beast, Zyras rudis – one of the specimens from a large series collected from just south of Lawrence, Kansas, using a FIT. I’m yet to find this beast myself, in fact, I’m yet to collect the genus Zyras.

Zyras rudis

In my opinion, it doesn’t look like Zyras is going to be a speciose group in North America.

I presume that Zyras has some form of myrmecophilous associations; I can only speculate what myrmecophilous affinities Z. rudis may or may not have.

Has anyone collected Zyras (sensu stricto BTW) before? With or without ants, I’m curious to see how people collect Zyras. I get the impression that they’re usually passively collected, using pitfall traps or FITs and such, when one is not looking for them or know where to look.

Bump or pore?

I’ve been keeping myself busy recently. I’ll be giving an oral presentation at the annual staphylinid conference in May so a lot of effort is going into preparation. The conference will be in Copenhagen and this will be my first time in Europe, which I am really excited about. Good beer, good company, I’m looking forward to the event.

Today I made some illustrtions of mandibles (among other structures) for my talk and noticed very large circular outlines on the mandibular surface – they were rather peculiar looking. Initially, I thought they were very conspicuous pores, since small pores are common on mandibular surfaces. With a more careful look, I convinced myself that they were small protuberances or bumps of a sort. By now I was loosing more and more faith in my interperatations.

I asked some other students in the lab (this was at like midnight) their opinions;  man was I wrong and thinking other opinions were going to be helpful, more confusing was more like it.

“Bump or pore”, we laughed at its potential as an oral exam question. The students I asked were just as reluctant to pick bump or pore. I ended up picking option pore but I threw a few bumps in there too. I’ll have to explain my uncertainty…

BTW, molar regions, really difficult to draw accurately. You really need to take an SEM for detailed structural representation.

I apologize for my tardiness.

I promise that I will introduce some staphs from Costa Rica shortly. But, in the mean time, please enjoy a snake from a foray on Saturday.

Rattle snake

Rattle snake

Rattle snake head

First off, collecting on Saturday was AWESOME!!! I collected, just to name a few: Xenodusa cava, poster child of North American myrmecophiles; a genus close to Myrmobiota; a few more specimens of this genus that I can’t identify (don’t worry, I’m working on it; a Nemadus species I don’t have;  tyrines up the wazoo; and Philotermes for DNA!! You can’t see me but I’m doing a little dance as I type.

And, all of this awesome collecting started off with a run in with this beautiful rattle snake, whom was just basking on the trail. She let me take a few photos, and when I tried to walk around her, I guess I was crunching along too loudly off the path, she decided to slither off the trail.

She was rather large, maybe 5 ft, an ID would be greatly appreciated.