KSNH June e-news and Events Update
General Meeting: Examining the Orientation and Swimming Performance of Kentucky Forest Ants
Noah D. Gripshover
University of Louisville, Department of Biology
June 15, 7:00pm, Louisville Nature Center
Environmental challenges shape the evolution of animal behavior and morphology. For wingless terrestrial invertebrates, like ants, pools of water on the forest floor are particularly dangerous. However, some species of ants overcome this obstacle by swimming across the water surface. The goal of this study was to measure the swimming ability and directional cues used by some common forest ants in Kentucky. We collected workers of carpenter ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) and field ants (Formica subsericea) from local parks around Louisville. We chose these species because they are large, easy to identify, and do not sting. We used a simple plastic pool in the lab as an experimental arena to explore the orientation cues used by swimming ants. The arena contained black and white poles as targets, and was surrounded by black and white background colors. The arrangement of targets and backgrounds was manipulated to test the hypothesis that ants orientate towards black or white objects. The results of this experiment showed that these ants use a combination of lines of contrast between colors, and isolated dark objects to locate a potential exit from the water (e.g., an emergent tree trunk or rock surface). The second experiment examined how these ants functionally locomote across the water surface. We used a similar laboratory setup as above to measure swimming velocity and efficiency and to determine the roles of specific legs in swimming for each of the focal species. These two species of ants use a modified gait to transverse the water surface and appeared to use different legs for different functions at the water surface. We followed these observations with leg removal experiments, which showed that the front legs of these ants are used primary in propulsion, the mid-legs provide propulsion and turning forces, and the rear legs maintain stability. In the future, we plan to examine orientation at the water surface of nocturnal ants in the absence of light, the hydrophobic properties and functions of the ants' tarsal pads while swimming, and how the presence of predators affects the swimming behavior of ants.
As an undergraduate at the University of Louisville, I had the opportunity to learn about and pursue a career in research. During my sophomore year, I began participating in Dr. Steve Yanoviak’s lab, which studies local and tropical ants, as well as lightning ecology. During my first project, I investigated the ways in which carpenter ants, Camponotus pennsylvanicus, located escape routes at the water surface. This project piqued my interest in swimming ants and I wanted to learn more. In my second project, I compared the swimming biomechanics of carpenter ants and field ants, F. subsericea. I also assisted graduate students with their projects in Panama investigating canopy ant ecology and the ways in which lightning effects the canopy. This year, I graduated from the University of Louisville and will be begin my Masters at the University of Cincinnati studying the biomechanics of snakes in Dr. Bruce Jayne’s lab.
We had about 20 attendees at our last meeting. The speaker was Rosemary Bauman
BCSNP is the most urban of KY’s sixty-three state nature preserves. Dedicated in 1982, the land has a rich and varied history of human activity. Though surrounded by urban Louisville, it’s home to a surprising number of plant and animal species. As a small forest fragment, the preserve faces many challenges, particularly takeover by a number of invasive plant species. With the help of many dedicated volunteers, the Louisville Nature Center has taken on the difficult task of invasive plant removal and forest restoration. This illustrated program explored the past history, and plans for the future at BCSNP.
Our snacks were provided by Jack Still and Pat Meyer. Next up in June we have Tish Kimble and Chris Knoph providing these goodies. Thanks to our volunteers for doing this.
We are currently looking for a secretary to replace Margie Conard. Margie has done a fine job over the years but at the present time, she is unable to travel too far from home. Please step up to the plate and fill in this important but not difficult position on the KDNH board. If interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Events in the neighborhood
Conferences thus far that have been confirmed are:
Fall 2017-Pine Mountain State Resort Park-October 13-14
Spring 2018-Pine Mountain Settlement School-their Wildflower Weekend April 20-23
Fall 2018-Pennyrile State Resort Park-October 20-21
Spring 2019-Shawnee State Park in Ohio-tentative
Meetings at the Louisville Nature Center the 3rd Thursday of the following months: March, May, June, September and November. Our spring conferences are normally held in April (see below for details) and the Fall Conference is normally held in October. July is reserved for our annual picnic and December for our winter dinner.
Check out our website for future events. Just click on the Calendar link on the homepage.
A reminder that our membership year begins on January 1 to December 31 each year. If you are presently a member and have not renewed it's time to do so. Most of the monies collected through dues goes into our Grant Funds and operating expenses for our two conferences. All our officers in the Kentucky Society of Natural History are strictly voluntary so we have no paid positions. You may renew online ( PayPal ) or send in a membership form found through a link on our website. A link to a tax- deductible donation is found there as well.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
......please keep us informed about any address or email changes.