Spiders and Ants

By Rainer Dolch

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Although both are arthropods, only the ants are insects, whereas spiders belong to their own class, the Arachnida. In collaboration with Mitsinjo, researchers of the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) have focused on both taxa in Madagascar.

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Brian Fisher and his team have discovered more than 900 species of ants from Madagascar

The daring Brian Fisher (http://www.calacademy.org/science/heroes/bfisher) of CAS and his team of the Madagascar Biodiversity Center have taken on the herculean task of inventorying Madagascar’s ant fauna. Their ground-(and back-)-breaking work in Madagascar is indeed one of the largest insect inventories ever endeavored.

So far, they have collected one million specimens at 200 sites, including Andasibe on various occasions. Over the years, the team has thus identified and named 900 ant species from Madagascar, which will help reveal evolutionary origins and radiations.

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The stunning diversity of Andasibe’s ants. Clockwise from top left: Cataulacus oberthueri, Cerapachys lividus, Technomyrmex madecassus, Strumigenys dicomas

Arachnologist Charles Griswold and his team, also of CAS, focus on spider phylogeny and especially on the peculiar goblin spiders (Oonopidae). Collecting these spiders as well as collecting ants requires sieving through enormous quantities of leaf litter, making research of these tiny animals a tiring enterprise.

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Daniela Andriamalala and Alma Saucedo of CAS searching for goblin spiders at Mitsinjo’s Anamalazaotra forest

Discover the amazing work of Brian Fisher’s team (https://sites.google.com/site/madabiodiversity/home)

Search thousands of ant specimens from Madagascar and pick your favourite

(http://www.antweb.org/madagascar.jsp)

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