White Mtns Road Trip #8
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White Mtns Arizona Road Trip #8
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Some Interesting Arizona Insects
© W.P. Armstrong 1 October 2012
Larva Of Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

This butterfly larva (Battus philenor) typically feeds on plants of the genus Aristolochia known as pipevines. In fact, toxins in the host plant are conferred to the larva and adult moth, giving them protection from predators. This striking caterpillar belongs to the swallowtail butterfly family (Papilionidae). When I took this photo I didn't realize that the host plant was Watson's Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia watsonii). Special thanks to Douglas Ripley for the identification.
Note: The family Aristolochiaceae belongs to the order Piperales in the non-monocot, non-eudicot angiosperm group called the magnoliid clade or "magnoliids." According to W.S. Judd, et al. (2008), this clade is probably monophyletic and also includes the primitive orders Magnoliales. Laurales. and Canellales.

  Judd, W.S., Campbell, C.S., Kellogg, E.A., Stevens, P.F., and M.J. Donaghue. 2008. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach (Third Edition). Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, Massachusetts. 611 p.

Photo by Greg Hume (2012) Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor). This beautiful blue butterfly belongs to the swallowtail family (Papilionidae).

More Images Of Aristolochia On Wayne's Word
  Images Of Swallowtail Butterflies On Wayne's Word
  


Flower Buprestid: Acmaeodera gibbula (Bupresitdae)

Flower buprestid: Acmaeodera gibbula (Bupresitdae).


Caterpillar of White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

Caterpillar of white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata)


Glorious Beetle (Plusiotis gloriosa)

The glorious beetle (Plusiotis gloriosa), one of the most beautiful beetles in North America. It belongs to the large and very diverse family Scarabaeidae, along with June beetles, rain beetles and rhinoceros beetles. Adults feed on juniper foliage in the southwestern United States (Texas to Arizona and northern Mexico). Their striking color actually serves as camouflage by blending in with the native vegetation.

Ventral (underside) view of a glorious beetle (Plusiotis gloriosa).


Arizona Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa californica)

Arizona carpenter bee (Xylocopa californica).


Assasin Bug? On Car In Pinetop, Arizona

Assasin bug? on a car in Pinetop, Arizona.

  More Images Of Assasin Bugs On Wayne's Word  


Ant Images On White Mtn Road Trip

  Ant Images On Wayne's Word  

Clearing 10 feet (3 m) across made by colony of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus).
The ants carefully remove all plants and competing root systems from their subterranean nest.


Harvester Ants Use Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) Algorithm

Dark harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex rugosus) or possibly hybrids with P. barbatus.
Ants use the same algorithm as Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) in computers. They follow a simple set of rules that tell each ant, "If this happens, do this." The TCP algorithm sends out a large number of data packets at the start of a transmission over the Internet to determine available bandwidth and then adjusts the speed accordingly. Harvester ants do the same thing by sending out a large number of foragers. If few return with food ("low bandwidth") then the number of foragers sent out ("rate of transmission") is greatly reduced. It all boils down to a question of bandwidth--except in the ant's case, they've been doing it for millions of years!

  • Prabhaker, B., Dektar, K.N., and D.M. Gordon. 2012. "The Regulation of Ant Colony Foraging Activity Without Spatial Information." PLOS Computational Biology 8 (8): e1002670. doi: 10. 1371/journal.pcbi. 1002670.

    See Reference On-Line


Harvester Ant Workers: Hybrids Between Pogonomyrmex rugosus & P. barbatus

All Possible
Crosses *
P. barbatus
Queen
P. barbatus
Male
P. rugosus
Queen
P. rugosus
Male
P. barbatus
Queen
-----
Purebred
Queen
-----
Hybrid
Worker
P. barbatus
Male
Purebred
Queen
-----
Hybrid
Worker
-----
P. rugosus
Queen
-----
Hybrid
Worker
-----
Purebred
Queen
P. rugosus
Male
Hybrid
Worker
-----
Purebred
Queen
-----
* Note: Purebred Male Comes From Unfertilized Egg Of Purebred Queen.

Sex determination in the more than 12,000 species of ants is typical of the enormous insect order Hymenoptera, including bees and wasps. The method is called "haplodiploidy." Males develop from unfertilized eggs and are haploid with one set of maternal chromosomes. They are not identical clones of their queen mother because of crossing over and random assortment of chromosomes during meiosis (oogenesis). Deleterious (unfavorable) recessive genes are quickly weeded out in haploid males because they are expressed and cannont be masked by dominant genes. Females develop from fertilized eggs and are diploid with two sets of chromosomes. Some references say that larvae destined to become sexually mature queens are "well-nurtured," presumably similar to royal jelly in honey bees; however, other reputable authoritees state that selection of a queen in some ant species is a lot more complicated and may involve special eggs destined to become queens (see next paragraph). Queen ants have one of the longest life-spans of any known insects--up to 28 years in captivity!

In zones of hybridization, Pogonomyrmex harvester ant workers of the southwestern U.S. are hybrids between P. rugosus and P. barbatus. They possess the best genetic traits of two species. The queen of each species mates with the males of opposite species. Sexually mature ants (queens and winged males) are purebreds: They are offspring of queen and males of the same species. Young queens need to mate with their own species to produce more purebred queens. They need to mate with the other species to produce "superorganism" workers. This strategy appears to be evolutionarily advantageous to both species.

  1. Cahan, S.H., and L. Keller. 2003. "Complex Hybrid Origin of Genetic Caste Determination in Harvester  
      Ants." Nature 424 (6946): 306-309.

  2. Schwander, T., Cahan, S.H., and L. Keller. 2007. "Characterization and Distribution of Pogonomymex  
      Harvester Ant Lineages with Genetic Caste Determination." Molecular Ecology 16 (2): 367-387.

  3. Schwander, T., and L. Keller. 2007. "Genetic Compatibility Affects Queens and Worker Caste  
      Determination." Science 322 (5901): 552.

Comparison Of Pogonomyrmex Hybrid Workers With A Mule

If the workers of an ant nest can be thought of as the superorganism's body, and the sexuals (queens & males) can be thought of as the superorganism's genetic material, it is as though an animal with the body of a mule has the genetic make-up of a horse and donkey!

Although Pogonomyrmex hybrid workers form a colony and the mule is a single organism, they make an interesting comparison. They both involve a cross between two species that forms a stronger hybrid offspring with the best traits of its parents. The ant colony of hybrid workers functions as a unit that could be described as a "superorganism." This is similar to the "Borg Collective" in Star Strek: The Next Generation.

The female horse (mare) mates with a male horse (stallion) to produce more male and female horses. If she mates with a male donkey (jackass) she can produce a male or female mule. The mule is a sterile hybrid with the body size of a horse and the sure-footedness and endurance of a donkey. That is why the mule is essentially a "superorganism" used as a powerful pack animal. In the case of Pogonomyrmex, the hybrid "super-ants" are the workers!

An original 20 mule team wagon train used in 1885 to haul borax from Death Valley to Mojave, a distance of 165 miles. The borax weighed 24 tons and the entire wagon train weighed 36.5 tons (gross weight). The last wagon carried water for the mules during the hot, 10 day journey across the Mojave Desert. Today, a load of this size would be pulled by a 600 horse power Kenworth T-2000 tractor with an air conditioned cab!
  More Information About The Mule On Wayne's Word  


Wood Ant or Thatching Ant (Formica integroides)

This thatchlike nest is made from alligator juniper branchlets (Juniperus deppeana). It was teaming with thatching ant workers (Formica integroides).

Juniper branchlets teaming with aggressive thatching ant workers (Formica integroides).


Small Mound-Building Ants Of The Genus Dorymyrmex

Nest of small mound-building ants of the genus Dorymyrmex.

  See Dorymyrmex on Owens Peak North Of Palomar College  

Close-up view of Dorymyrmex (probably D. bicolor) showing prominent cone on propodeum.


Little Black Ant: Possibly The Genus Tapinoma

Entrance to nest of small black ants, possibly the genus Tapinoma.

  See Tapinoma on Owens Peak North Of Palomar College