Delsinne T. & Dekoninck W. (RBINS) 2012
Training in ant taxonomy in the Galápagos Archipelago (Ecuador) with focus on endemic ant species and additionally scientific mission to Island Isabela to collect ants (2012)
In 2011, 18 Ecuadorian biologists participated to a training on ant taxonomy and biology in southern Ecuador (GTI grant type 2, Delsinne & Dekoninck 2011). The experience was successful since several students are now conducting ant biodiversity studies in different parts of Ecuador. The Belgian researchers collaborate in two of them as scientific experts.
A recurrent issue encountered by the students is the difficulty to know what to do with suspected new species. To help them the Belgian researchers decided to offer an in depth training on ant taxonomy, with a focus on taxa description.
The myrmecofauna of Ecuadorian mainland is however too diverse and poorly known to be accessible by taxonomist beginners. It is necessary to focus on a less complex and better studied fauna. The ant assemblage of the Galápagos Archipelago appears as an ideal playground because it is less diversified, has been intensively studied by RBINS members for the last 10 years, and the taxonomic status of some endemic species remains poorly understood. Therefore, the Belgian promoters decided to transfer a group of 3 Ecuadorian students previously trained by the 2011 Ant course to the Charles Darwin Research Station and provide them the skills i) to disentangle the taxonomic status of several assumed endemic ant species; ii) to understand the importance of type-material, and iii) to (re)describe species and genera. To attain these objectives, participants will be supervised by four experts in ant taxonomy during ten days. The course will combine classroom lectures, laboratory and fieldwork experiences. Description of new ant taxa is expected.
Photos: Left: Ecuadorian students searching ants, Right: the group ready to sample ants in the wet forest at El Chato © T. Delsinne & W. Dekoninck / RBINS