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Science AMA Series: I’m Brian Fisher, ant specialist and Curator of Entomology at the California Academy of Sciences, aka “the real Ant Man.” My research focuses on new technology to discover and docum
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Hi Reddit! Okay, let’s start with the ants. Shakespeare once wrote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” What they lack in size, ants more than make up for in numbers, and they offer countless behaviors to explore. Ants are Earth’s first farmers and shepherds, they engineer floating pontoons and enslave other ants, and their combined weight actually equals humanity’s. Yet despite all these intriguing facts, we mostly ignore this global community of ants beneath our feet … except when they enter our kitchens uninvited. When I’m not describing new at species at the California Academy of Science’s laboratory of ant evolution I’m often found hip-deep in Madagascar mud and searching remote river valleys and precious virgin forests for new ants. I love documenting the species diversity and distribution of this “invisible majority,” and I use that data to establish conservation priorities. I also champion the vital importance of specimen collection and taxonomy every chance I get — critical work that supports new research, but that many consider unglamorous in this age of sexy scientific sound bites. Understanding ant diversity and distribution helps determine areas that must be preserved to protect the highest number of all living things. Map an ant, save a plant! (And everything else.) I’ve discovered more than 1,000 new species (including the vampire, trap jaw, and “cliff-jumping” ant) and created Ant Course — a sort of professional “ant camp” for collection and taxonomy. You may find me on BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/18368213, National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060821-ants.html, and Discovery News http://news.discovery.com/animals/6-new-dracula-ant-species-discovered-in-madagascar-140331.htm as cameras follow me into the field or ask me to discuss films like “Ant Man” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nUpY4M1dWA, and you can always find me on Twitter at @ant_explorer. Ask me anything! Thanks for all the questions. I’ll sign in tomorrow to answer a few more. May the ants be with you! More links: Telling Story Collider about living with (and almost dying with) pygmies: http://storycollider.org/podcast/2014-11-16 Fisher lab: http://www.fisherlab.org/