Wednesday 20 March 2013

An ant named after Bangalore

Bangalore has always been known as a city of  space, aerospace and science. The many scientific and research institutions have given Bangalore the nomenclature of Science today.
Bangalore is also known for many inventions and discoveries such as the Bangalore torpedo and several other inventions in the field of pure science.
But what many do not know is that Bangalore is also known for the discovery of at least two new species of ants, yes ants, and one of the species is named after the City.
Ants are everywhere but few of us notice them. Moreover, for a layman there is no difference between species of ants and so all credit to the researchers who have discovered the new species.
This is Dilobocondyla Bangalorica and this is a species of ant which is the sub family of  Myrmicinae. It is an arboreal ant and it generally nests in dead wood and crevices of tree barks.
This new species was discovered in 2006 in the campus of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Malleswaram.
The credit for discovering the Bangalorica goes to researchers Sunil Kumar M. and Srihari K. T. They collected the 4-millimetre (0.16 in) ant in the IISc campus first in 1997.  Though they identified the genus of the ant, it was Thresiamma Varghese, a scientist at the IISc, whose studies led to the ant being described as a new species in 2006.
This ant builds its nest in the Frangipani plant species- Plumeria Alba alba and Plumeria rubra. While they live in colonies like other ants, they forage individually on tree trunks. The spines on the head and thorax are blunt, and this is the main difference between the Bangalorica and other species.
When these ants forage, they raise their abdomen or gaster high up in the air and in this they bear a remarkable similarity to Crematogaster which is also called acrobat ants.
The worker ants and the Queen ants of Bangalorica is smaller than other species. A few more nests of this species was discovered in Lalbagh and Cubbon Park, Bangalore. So far, this species of ant has not been found outside IISc, Lalbgh and Cubbon Park.
The holotype or the physical example of the ant, known to have been used when the species was discovered in IISc, is still  preserved in the Insect museum of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, which is one of the departments of the IISc.
The D Bangalorica is the twelfth species of ants in the genus Diblocondyla. What makes this discovery significant is that it is the first species of this particular genus that has been found in India.  
The other eleven species are from other different areas of the world.
By the way, Dr. Varghese and Ajay Narendra, an ant researcher, have discovered another species of ant called Myrmecina Urbanii. So far this has been traced only in Kerala and it is also a rare species.
The queen ant of M Urbanii is polymorphic-it has different sizes. In other species of ants, it is only the worker which are of different size.
It was Mr Narendra who discovered another species of ant in Lalbagh in 2013. The ant belongs to the genus polyrhachis and it was found on a bark of a tree. This makes it the second ant species  discovered in Bangalore
The whole of Britain has only 56 ant species while Bangalore alone has 130 of the 170 ant species so far recorded in India. World over, there are 12,000 species of ants.
Another ant species discovered in the Western Ghats recently has been named Discothyrea Sringerensis.

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