New ant species hits the ground running

worker ant

A previously unknown species of ant was discovered in Texan coastal counties around Houston in 2002, by an exterminator, Tom Rasberry. So far they are known in five counties. They are prolific and tend to run around crazily. They are similar to a Columbian species, Pareatrechina pubens, and may have evolved from them. The ants have more than one queen in a colony.

Mr. Rasberry demonstrated in a patch of woods not far from his business, Budget Pest Control, that the ants were swarming under every clod of grass and over every tree branch and limb.

And the ants’ seasonal gestation period, which reaches its peak in the summer, is just beginning, said Paul Nester, a program specialist for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service of Texas A&M University.

“They’re the ant of all ants,” said Dr. Nester, who said they had infested five coastal counties, “and are moving about half a mile a year.” But he said broad areas of Texas and beyond were probably not threatened because the ants preferred the warmth and moistness of the coast.

Variants of the species found in Colombia have been known to asphyxiate chickens and even attack cattle by swarming over their eyes, nasal passages and hooves, according to the Center for Urban and Structural Entomology at Texas A&M, which is conducting much of the research on the ants. It lists some of the findings on its Web site:

Jason Meyers, a doctoral student in urban entomology at Texas A&M who is writing his dissertation on the ants, described them as enigmatic and confirmed that they were discovered by Mr. Rasberry. They belong to the genus Paratrechina, like others seen in Colombia, the Caribbean and Florida, Mr. Meyers said, but are different enough for entomologists to only guess at their species, listing them for now as “near” pubens.

Nobody wants to confront their weight in ants; but Afarensis on points out that there is already some hysteria about the new ants.

How do the people in Columbia deal with their close relatives?

Doctors use robot to do brain surgery

Dr. Garnette Sutherland demonstrates MRI-compatible NeuroArm

Doctors in Calgary, Alberta, have made medical history: they used a robot to remove a tumor from a woman’s brain while they watched what they were doing with an MRI scanner. Here are Dr. Sutherland and Ms. Nickason with the machine.

Dr Garnette Sutherland and Paige Nickason look at robot surgery arm“Doctors used remote controls and an imaging screen, similar to a video game, to guide the two-armed robot through Paige Nickason’s brain during the nine-hour surgery Monday.

“Surgical instruments acting as the hands of the robot -called NeuroArm – provided surgeons with the tools needed to successfully remove the egg-shaped tumour….

“‘Paige’s brain surgery represents a technical achievement in the use of image-guided robotic technology to remove a relatively complex brain tumour,’ said Dr. Garnette Sutherland, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Calgary faculty of medicine and NeuroArm team leader.

“NeuroArm has the distinct advantage of being able to move in smaller increments than a surgeon’s hand, Sutherland said.

“Typically, the human hand can steady itself and move in increments of one or two millimetres. NeuroArm can move in increments of 50 microns. [A micron is 1/1000 of a millimetre.]…

“NeuroArm can operate in the brain in a way that is less invasive and more delicate than a surgeon’s hands.”

robot NeuroArm surgical tool, Dr. Garnette Sutherland

You can read more about the NeuroArm here and here.

Gene Genie #31 at Adaptive Complexity

The 31st edition of Gene Genie has been posted at Adaptive Complexity. See Capitalists, Genetic Tests and Your DNA.

Everyone knows there is a lot of crazy stuff on the internet, but did you know there is a lot of great writing about genes, genetics, and human diseases? And believe it or not, sometimes these pieces are written by people who know what they’re talking about. If you’re looking for what’s new in human genetics, you’ve come to the right place.

Welcome to the 31st Gene Genie, a blog carnival dedicated to great blogging about human genes and how they impact our health. This Mother’s Day edition includes an in-depth highlight of the growing industry of personalized genetics.

The purpose of this carnival is to highlight the genetics of one particular species, Homo sapiens.

Here are the earlier Gene Genies:

  1. Scienceroll
  2. Sciencesque
  3. Genetics and Health
  4. Sandwalk
  5. Neurophilosophy
  6. Scienceroll
  7. Gene Sherpa
  8. Eye on DNA
  9. DNA Direct Talk
  10. Genomicron
  11. Med Journal Watch
  12. My Biotech Life
  13. The Genetic Genealogist
  14. MicrobiologyBytes
  15. Cancer Genetics
  16. Neurophilosophy
  17. The Gene Sherpa
  18. Eye on DNA
  19. Scienceroll
  20. Bitesize Bio
  21. BabyLab
  22. Sandwalk
  23. Scienceroll
  24. biomarker-driven mental health 2.0
  25. The Gene Sherpa
  26. Sciencebase
  27. DNA Direct Talk
  28. Greg Laden’s Blog
  29. My Biotech Life
  30. Gene Expression
  31. Adaptive Complexity

The lovely, sinuous, Gene Genie logo was created by Ricardo at My Biotech Life.

Abortion does not cause breast cancer

Surprise, surprise. After years of unfounded assertions and misrepresented studies, religiously-motivated anti-abortion activists have failed to demonstrate any link between abortion and breast cancer.

Sciencebloggers Orac and Marc Chu-Carroll tag team to produce the most authoritative takedown of the “abortion causes breast cancer” canard that I’ve yet seen. Short story: the study’s author simply dropped data that didn’t fit with his desired outcome, and he apparently can’t standard deviate his way out of a paper bag.

HIV/AIDS Walk Saturday, May 17

The fundraising AIDS Walk New York is tomorrow! One of my BookCrossing friends will be volunteering.

Registration starts at 8:30 a.m., but she said something about being there at 06:45, so come early.

map. lower part of central park

She has pictures from the 2007 AiDS Walk.

Team Sikhs in America for HIV/AIDS Walk 2007 in New York

UPDATE: The HIV/AIDS walk raised more than seven million dollars! Annulla says:

Thanks for all the good wishes!

I’m thrilled to tell you that we did it!

The rain came but the walkers stayed and we set a new record!



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