Zo­ol­o­gist on reclu­sive species hunt

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - RACHEL RI­LEY rachel. ri­ley@ news. com. au

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

very

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

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