Sunday, January 20, 2008

Solitary Ants?

Always on the hunt for groundbreaking research in any way related to ants I found this:

Linking traits of foraging animals to spatial patterns of plants: social and solitary ants generate opposing patterns of surviving seeds
Tal Avgar, Itamar Giladi, Ran Nathan
Ecology Letters (OnlineEarly Articles)

There are no known species of solitary ants. The missing word is "foraging".

link to article

Monday, December 03, 2007


my paper is published:

JOCHEN H. BIHN & MANFRED VERHAAGH, 2007: A review of the genus Mystrium (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Indo-Australian region. Zootaxa 1642: 1-12.

Indo-Australian species of the amblyoponine ant genus Mystrium Roger are reviewed. Three species are recognized in the region, and two of them, which were found in Indonesia (Papua and West Papua Province), are described as new species: Mystrium maren sp. nov. and Mystrium leonie sp. nov. Worker diagnoses and illustrations of the three species and a tabular key are given.

Full article can be downloaded here.

Mystrium leonie

Mystrium maren

Aren´t they beautiful?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fungi attack on Paraponera

Stunning video of Cordyceps (parasitic fungi) growing on Paraponera clavata.

Some more pictures of ants parasitized by fungi.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Ant Course 2007

(Been there, done this) The Ant Course 2002 was a great experience and I recommend it to everyone interested! Get the details at

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cataglyphis introduced by Sir David Attenborough

Via: VideoSift

I found this great video sequence from The Trials of Life documentary about Cataglyphis. David Attenborough gives a nice introduction to the orientation of Cataglyphis in the Sahara. These desert ants use a celestial compass to find their way in this featureless landscape.
But this is not the end of wonders that the orientation of Cataglyphis has to offer. As recently published in Science Cataglyphis additionally uses an internal "step counter". From the abstract:
Desert ants, Cataglyphis, navigate in their vast desert habitat by path integration. They continuously integrate directions steered (as determined by their celestial compass) and distances traveled, gauged by as-yet-unknown mechanisms. Here we test the hypothesis that navigating ants measure distances traveled by using some kind of step integrator, or "step counter." We manipulated the lengths of the legs and, hence, the stride lengths, in freely walking ants. Animals with elongated ("stilts") or shortened legs ("stumps") take larger or shorter strides, respectively, and concomitantly misgauge travel distance. Travel distance is overestimated by experimental animals walking on stilts and underestimated by animals walking on stumps.
"Manipulating the lengths of the legs" is an interesting formulation. Find out what it means by reading the original article. A PDF can be found on the homepage of RĂ¼diger Wehner who spent quite some time in his life to study orientation in desert ants.

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tools for Science 2.0: Connotea and CiteULike

Researching the literature is an essential part of every research project. Much of this can be done on the internet where Google Scholar, Pubmed, CiteSeer or similar services can help in finding relevant information. The next step is managing all the articles you have found. For this, I use Reference Manager but there are many other desktop applications for the task at hand. But wouldn't it be great to move this part of the process on the internet as well instead of switching to a desktop application?

Connotea ( and CiteULike ( claim to offer exactly this. Both are collaborative tagging systems with a focus on scientists who want to share, store and organize academic papers.

CiteULike is provided Richard Cameron and generously hosted by the University of Manchester in England. Connotea was created by Nature publishing group. Both services are free to everyone. Registration is simple and no personal information is needed. I am not sure if CiteULike is still actively developed (because the bug tracking system is full of spam and the search function on the site doesn't work at all).

Input of articles

Both services make use of "bookmarklets" which start a JavaScript to analyze the current page in the browser. When you see a paper or a book on the web that interests you, you can click one button, the bibliographic information is extracted and added to your personal library. This works well for various publishers’ webpages. The Citeulike site stores the bibliographic info, including the abstract. Connotea, on the other hand, is literally a bookmarking system. The DOI is the primary identification info. It gets interesting when you try to post bibliographic information manually, i.e. print-only articles. You can manually enter detailed biblio info to CiteULike (but curiously missing are DOI and ISSN fields). In Connotea, you can only post an URL, and a title. There is no way to add the full reference, unless there is a DOI for the article. This means that it is not possible to input articles that are older than 10 years or so. (see comments) Although even an article from 1771 has been issued a DOI, there are very few articles older than 10 years which bear a DOI (i.e. in comparison to all the scientific articles that have been published). But especially in taxonomy all that "old stuff" is still important and wants to be cited. This makes Connotea more or less useless for my purposes.

Organizing your articles

Organization of articles in your library is mainly based on tags. Sorting of articles in your library or articles for a specific tag is always based on the date of posting. I am missing other sorting options (author name, date of publication, ...) and I would like the control the display of entries. CiteULike automatically tags author names and Livesearch by authors or tags of your library is very fast. Both systems let you add notes to your articles and in CiteULike you can even attach personal PDF copies.

Sharing & exploring articles

Connotea and CiteULike let you search through everyone's libraries (although the search in CiteULike seems to be broken). For each paper in your library it is displayed which other users have it in their libraries. I would like some more features to find "interesting stuff", e.g. popular articles by tag (see for how to do it).

Both systems have "groups" which are totally useless. If you belong to group everything you post will show up in that group. The core of a group is a shared interest on a topic area, but a user may have many interests. Therefore you should be able to decide which paper in your library you want to share with a particular group.

In CiteULike metadata of references that were manually added are not shared with other users. That means search results will not output any of these references even if you entered these yourself and you are logged into your account. This should be some kind of protection against spam but turns out to be an unacceptable feature.

Connotea lets you build a profile page. Nice.

Exporting articles

CiteULike allows you to export your collected references in BitTex and Endnote format. The options for export in Connotea are extensive: RIS, Endnote, BibTex and XML. I haven't tested any of these.

Both systems also allow syndication of your library as RSS. This is potentially a great option to keep an eye (via a feed reader) on interesting articles that other users add to Connotea or CiteULike. I am especially interested in connecting the collected references in CiteULike or Connotea with my website ( via RSS. Unfortunately, CiteULike omits some information (authors !) in the RSS feed and Connotea has by design an even more limited subset of needed information. I have experimentally included a list of references, which are linked via RSS to tagged references in my CiteULike library on my page on Amblyopone (scroll down to section: Offline references for Amblyopone). As you can see an important piece of bibliographic information is missing: the author(s). I do not understand why you would include the full abstract of an article in an RSS feed but not the author(s). The bibliographic information given in the RSS from Connotea is even more basic and does not include authors nor journal information.

Wishlist for a better system

  • Include full bibliographic information in the RSS feed and/or offer a tool for displaying collected bibliographies on other places on the web (e.g. linkrolls in
  • Let me control the sorting and display of entries of my library.
  • (Connotea) Give me the possibility to include print-only papers in my library (with full bibliographic information).
  • Add some real group features where I can decide which paper to include in the group.

In my view CiteULike is much nearer the desired tool than Connotea which offers few additional features to with a less powerful user interface. You may want to share your experience with CiteULike or Connotea by commenting this entry.