Halfway Through July

The NaBloPoMo July 2011 challenge is now half way through. How are things going at Wild About Ants?

A Lot of Swimming:

  • I’ve managed a post every day so far in the month of July
  • A lot of exciting things are happening in the ant world, so there is more to report
  • Wild About Ants has a new page on FaceBook – see over there in the right sidebar —->

A Bit of Sinking:

  • Quality of some of the posts has suffered due to tight deadlines.

So, more swimming than sinking, which is hopeful. Thank you for bearing with this blogging experiment, and remember, the month will be over soon 🙂

News today:

The newest Circus of the Spineless blog carnival is up at The Artful Amoeba and ants have top billing. That is, right after the Vellela vellela. (I love that name.)

A Different Kind of “Fire” Ant

Are any of you signed up for the 2011 Ant Course? It is going to be held at the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station near Portal, Arizona this year, or at least it was supposed to be. You see, there is a big fire burning in southeastern Arizona right now. They had to evacuate the station over the weekend.

Here’s a blurb from ABC15 News.

Makes me wonder if the ant course is going to be looking at the effects of forest fires on ants this year. I sure hope not.

Photograph from Public Domain Pictures by Kim Newberg

Ant Mimic Jumping Spider Myrmarachne formicaria

“Look at that ant,” she said.

It’s not an ant, though.

Ants have six legs, not eight.

And ants sure don’t have those iridescent chelicerae in front. Or the row of eyes right above the chelicerae.

It’s a jumping spider, apparently Myrmarachne formicaria. Look how the spider even holds its palps under the chelicerae to help with the disguise.

This is one of four males found overwintering in an old toy bulldozer left in the woods of upstate New York. We brought the toy inside and a day or so later noticed these. Once they had warmed up, they were quite active and readily accepted small flies.

Myrmarachne formicaria is a ant-mimic jumping spider that was first found in the United States (in Ohio) in 2001. Obviously its range is spreading.

Have you ever been fooled momentarily by a spider that was an ant mimic? Have you ever seen one of these?


Richard A. Bradley, Bruce Cutler, Maggie Hodge. 2006. The first records of Myrmarachne formicaria (Aranae, Salticidae) in the Americas. Journal of Arachnology. 34(2):483-484.

A Social Amoeba Practices Agriculture

Have you heard about this? The harsh spotlight of agricultural fame has been taken off the social insects by the paper in Nature last month. It turns out that amoebae of the species Dictyostelium discoideum treat their food bacteria like leafcutter ants treat the fungi they eat. In fact, the single-celled wonders might be called “farmers.”

Did you know there were social amoebae?  When levels of their “prey bacteria” get low, the amoebae gather together to form what is called a migrating slug (see video below). The clustered amoebae move a certain distance, and then form a towering fruiting body, with a thin stalk supporting a round sorus at the top. The cells within the sorus form spores, which disperse.

Be patient for the first 30 seconds of the video. The amoebae have been deprived off food. It takes a bit of time, but then they form the slug. I wonder if the stragglers that try to catch up to the main slug should be called “sluglets?” 🙂 (You’ll see what I’m talking about.)

When the “farmer” amoebae are ready to disperse, rather than eating absolutely all the bacteria available to them, they leave some. The bacteria are incorporated into the amoebae, into the slug, and carried via spores to the new area. Once at a suitable location to grow, the farmers “seed” the area with the bacteria, thus ensuring a certain food supply.

Non-farming clones of the same species of amoeba, on the other hand, consume all of the bacteria in the original area. Whether there will be food where their spores land is left to chance.

A fascinating species. And thanks to SN for bringing this to my attention,

Brock, D.A., T.E. Douglas, D.C. Queller, and J.E. Strassmann. (2011). Primitive agriculture in a social amoeba. Nature. 469: 393-396.