Zoologist on reclusive species hunt
MEET Townsville’s “Ant- Man”.
Former James Cook University zoologist Mike Downes has been raiding the nests of black weaver ants for the past six years in the city’s inner suburbs.
The species is one of two weaver ants found in Townsville, the other being the green ant.
Dr Downes said he has been closely following the proportions of small and large queen ants at each site.
But he is now looking to expand his research and is calling on residents to check their yards
own for any possible new nests.
“We are all too familiar with the green ant but the black version is less abundant and less conspicuous, but not uncommon,” Dr Downes said.
“Since beginning my research I have discovered some remarkable things about its biology.
“I’ve been monitoring up to five populations around Cranbrook, Mundingburra and Annandale, but I really need to get 12- 20 other sites in scattered parts of Townsville.”
Dr Downes hasn’t seen the movie Ant- Man yet but he said he was glad the often neglected insects were now in the spotlight.
“My grandchildren have been jumping up and down telling me I have to go and see it,” he said.
“We know so little about them so I’d be happy to try and save the ants and the world!”
Dr Downes said the black weaver ants are about the same size as the green species but more heavily- built, shiny jet black and spiny.
“They also constructs nests in trees, especiallyecially palms, palms,” he said. AUSTRALIAN s c i e n t i s t s are close to a breakthrough that could save hundreds of thousands of malaria sufferers.
A team at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have captured the first 3D image of a protein that gives the mosquito- borne parasite a ticket to survival.
It is a huge step towards creating drugs which could end one of the biggest killers in the developing world.
The search for new malaria drugs and vaccines has become even more critical because the parasite is developing a resistance to many treatments.
SIGHTINGS CALL: Researcher Mike Downes been studying the black weaver ant for the past six years and wants Townsville residents to report nests.
Picture: SCOTT RADFORD- CHISHOLM
To report t a black weaver ant nt site on your property, perty, call Dr Downes on 0428 194 4 700 or email mike downes @ bigpon d. com LIFELINE 13 11 14 BEYONDBLUE 1300 224 636