Blog about animals
Selected the best cow in Germany
Fishing ban proposed near Rockall after rare scientific finds
Life and death on the riverbank
Baboon shot dead after escaping from Knowsley Safari Park
Birdwatch: Peregrine falcon
Iceland's fin whales are endangered. Stop this bloody cull
The pitfalls of elderly dog insurance
Valley where Edward Carpenter, gay rights campaigner and socialist, walked
Green groups warn government of national parks hunting backlash
Demand for ivory destabilising central Africa
Dog walker found neighbour trampled by cows, inquest hears
Cat stands for election in Mexican city
I hear some hip cat's running for mayor in Mexico. That gives me an idea
Wader chick fever grips birds and spotters alike
Philippines destroys five tonnes of elephant tusks
The Dwyfor is surely one of the loveliest of Welsh rivers
New to nature No 107: Typhochlaena costae
How to beat the midges this summer
Controversial herring gull cull gets green light
Whaling's day in court is a sea change for conservation
Australia censures Japan for 'scientific' whaling
The young red deer stags were on their hind legs boxing, just like hares
Our garden's blackbirds started their nest-building early this year
UK wildlife and nature hit hard by erratic weather
  New to nature no 109: Anochetus hohenbergiae
At any given moment, it is estimated that there are about 10,000 trillion living individual ants. Myrmecologists Bert Hölldobler and Edward O Wilson noted that their combined weight would roughly equal that of all living humans combined. Beyond numbers, ants are critically important components of terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. But their evolutionary success is no less impressive. With more than 14,000 species worldwide they are spectacularly diverse by every measure, from anatomy to social behaviour, their complex colonies having been conceived of as "super-organisms". Knowledge of their ecological, behavioural and anatomical diversity grows incrementally, in part as a little more of the picture is revealed with each new species discovery.

The genus Anochetus is found in the tropics and subtropics around the globe. Its members are easily recognised, along with the related genus Odontomachus, by their very long, straight mandibles that arise near the midline of the head. These mandibles are highly adapted for their predatory function, opening to 180 degrees when the ant is threatened or in hunting mode and snapping closed to their parallel position. A worldwide taxonomic revision of the genus in 1978 has made it easier to detect new species and 11 have been added since for the neotropics alone, bringing the number for the region to 35. Species of the genus forage and nest in surprisingly diverse habitats. Most nest in the ground or in decaying wood and forage on tree trunks, often at night, above the forest floor. Some in arid areas forage on the ground by day in full sun or partial shade. Yet others are wholly arboreal, although these have been more rarely observed for obvious reasons.

Sampling of wet-forest canopy ants in natural- and agro-ecosystems in north-eastern Brazil turned up a new species of the genus unlike any ever seen before. The new species, Anochetus hohenbergiae, is the largest of any in the genus, with workers greater than 12.7mm in length. In addition to its distinctive size, the new species may be distinguished by its hairiness, a strong concavity along the posterior margin of the head, a row of 13 to 16 teeth on the mandibles, an unarmed propodeum, and a single reduced apical tooth on the petiolar node.

The suddenly narrowed "waist" of an ant would appear to be the beginning of the abdomen, but looks can be deceiving. The first abdominal segment, called the propodeum, is actually fused with and superficially appears to be a part of the thorax, the body region to which legs and wings attach. The narrow petiole is often ornamented with various bumps and teeth.

Although specimens have been turned up since the early 1990s, to date the new species is known only from a few locations in Bahia. An early report was of specimens associated with an unidentified epiphyte about 23m high in a tree. In the years since, only a few specimens had turned up, one foraging on the ground in a cocoa plantation. A recent survey in the same area including native trees and those used to shade cocoa turned up additional specimens of the large new species, all of them in association with epiphytic bromeliads of the genus Hohenbergia affixed to host trees at or above 12m.

Named by Brazilian scientists Dr Rodrigo M Feitosa of the Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo and Jacques HC Delabie of the Laboratório de Mirmecologia, Centro de Pesquisas do Cacau, Itabuna, in an article in Annales de la Société Entomologique de France 48: 253-259 (2012), the species epithet refers to its epiphytic host. The new species fits loosely into a group of species known as the emarginatus group, although its phylogeny is not yet clear. Species of this group are mostly arboreal feeders nesting in epiphytes, between palm leaf bases, or in hollow branches. This appears to be the case as well with A hohenbergiae, which mostly nests among lateral leaves and roots of host bromeliads. The authors suggest that, given the large size of individuals and restricted size of host plants, nests are likely small, perhaps with no more than 100 individuals each. Such small colonies are consistent with other species of the genus as well.
'Wild' animals in travelling circuses benefit no one
The intoxicated world of the spotted flycatcher
Fishing quotas can be redistributed to favour smaller vessels high court
Madagascar battling worst locust plague since 1950s
A broody sparrow meets his match
Climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt
The weird and wonderful world of the naked mole rat
Australian woman seriously injured during Spanish bull run
Spain's endangered Iberian lynx brought back from brink of extinction
One man and his sniffer dog help tackle Germany's hidden drug problem
The hotel that only takes dogs
T rex tooth found embedded in prey, restoring dinosaur's reputation
Bog cotton covers the summer Peak District moors in snow
Lifelike after death: the intricacies of a taxidermist's craft
The six-spot burnet moths complete their transformation
Research on animals in UK rises by 8% to exceed 4m procedures
Animal testing it's time to talk about it again
A pair of lithe animals are tumbling across the grass within feet of me
New to nature no 109: Anochetus hohenbergiae
England's ceremonial mayors eschew fur to support animal rights
Birdwatch: Corn bunting
Madrid declares war on plague of raccoon and parrot invaders
Snow leopards and wild yaks becoming 'fashion victims'
Horn seizure prompts rhinos warning
Threatened seabirds 'neglected' in plans for Scottish marine protected areas
Los Angeles campgrounds closed after plague-infected squirrel found
Only when I look down at the last second do I see it. I recoil instinctively
China's wine boom of little profit to giant pandas and small farmers
Let's not martyr the white-throated needletail to the anti-wind cause
Grasshopper breeder up for design award and educating western palates
Spanish national park could lose Unesco status over illegal boreholes
Dog mauls boy at primary school in Northern Ireland
Our dog walks are punctuated by the corn bunting's jingling ringtone
End in sight for painful branding of semi-wild moorland ponies
New to nature No 108: Carlia decora
Penguins support gorillas as biscuit makers respond to palm oil threat
Measuring carbon age in ivory could help combat poaching, study shows
How to survive a seagull attack
A walk by the river triggers memories of a bygone age
Whales flee from military sonar leading to mass strandings, research shows
Down among the grass stems, a ball of recently hatched orb-web spiderlings
Owen Paterson vows to rid England of bovine TB with badger culls
Gassing of badgers considered in plan to eradicate TB in cattle
Visitors to the Pamplona bull run have blood on their hands
Bats: they've never had it so good
These dew ponds have been on the Downs possibly since medieval times
Australian bushman claims to have footage of legendary night parrot
Secret badger shoots pose 'a risk to public safety'
Cheshire police seize dog believed to have killed Pomeranian
Whale watching season is back - but how close is too close?
Plan to ban wild animals in travelling circuses 'goes too far'
Morrissey donates Channel 4 payout to Peta campaign against foie gras
Visit Statistics