On the Trail with Sibley Museum Scientist, Michael W. Nickell

Published Aug 18th 2016 in Wildlife, Bugs, insects, Invertebrets

Aphaenogaster is the name of a genus of myrmicine ants.One of the most important features in identifying ants is the constricted leading portion of the abdomen called the petiole.Myrmicine ants have a petiole made of two nodes.Aphenogaster ants are commonly called funnel ants because of the large diameter funnel-shaped entrance to the nest.As a group, Aphaenogaster ants are ecologically valuable in the bioturbation of soils.

The taxonomy of ants is very incomplete.Many species are exceedingly difficult to distinguish by observing anatomical traits.Differences between similar species often become apparent during biochemical studies from large samples of ants.Some species have only been identified by differences in chromosomes or the structure of enzymes produced at very specific gene locations on chromosomes.

Novomessor is the name of a genus of ants that was described by Italian entomologist Carlo Emery in 1915.However, most entomologists considered Novomessor to be synonymous with Aphaenogaster.A 2015 phylogenetic study concluded, however, that Aphaenogaster and Novomessor were indeed distinct.A common species of funnel ant in West Texas, Aphaenogaster cockerelli is now considered to be Novomessor cockerelli.

Studies in systematics and taxonomy of living organisms is never static, but will always be in a fluid state.The classification and naming of species is only a representation of current knowledge, so there must be enough flexibility to change whenever new information comes to light.