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RE: Martialis heureka

Is this a news release? If so, where did it come from?

A few things to comment on - I translated and read this by running
Yasmani's e-mail through Babelfish, so my apologies if I've
misunderstood anything.

> Parecido a una avispa en miniatura y diferente a otras hormigas, se
remonta probablemente > a 120 millones de años, lo que lo convierte
en la especie de ese tipo más antigua viviente > en la Tierra, dijo

I'm not sure where this 120 million years figure comes from - perhaps
molecular dating. The earliest known crown-group ant comes from the
Turonian, a little less than 95 million years ago. If the
'Armaniidae' actually belong to the stem-formicid subfamily
Sphecomyrminae, then that puts sphecomyrmines back in the Albian,
which is getting closer to the 120 Mya mark. Ants seem to have
actually been quite rare in the Cretaceous, though, and have so far
only been found in Eurasian and North American sites.

Sphecomyrmines are more wasp-like, and I personally suspect that
despite its basal position, <i>Martialis</i> is actually a derived
specialist and not very indicative of the basal ant morphology. Basal
position, derived morphology.

> El análisis genético que se practicó al insecto confirmó que se
trata de una hembra, y    > pertenece a la casta de las trabajadores

According to the actual paper, the specimen was identified as a
worker on the basis of morphology, not genetically. I don't know that
it would be possible to distinguish a queen from a worker genetically
- I think caste is something that is induced after birth rather than
being genetically determined. The specimen appears to be a worker
because of the absence of eyes and any sign of sclerites indicating
past wing attachment (also, simple probability makes catching a
worker much more likely than catching a queen). However, not all
basal ant groups have morphologically distinct queens - many have
reproductive individuals that are very similar to workers. The
<i>Martialis</i> specimen was not dissected to confirm its sterility.

> El más reciente descubrimiento de una nueva especie de hormiga fue
en 1923, concluyó.

David's right - this is absolute rubbish. I don't know how long ago
the most recent other ant subfamily was described - maybe that's what
they meant to say.


        Christopher Taylor

Christopher Taylor
Dept of Environmental Biology
Curtin University of Technology
GPO Box U1987
WA 6845