About Clint Penick

Clint Penick is a biologist with interests in development and evolution. For his past work he traveled to India to study “How ants got their queen,” and now he’s working in New York City to study what ants eat and how ants respond to changing temperatures.

Updating the Species Scape

This post was written by Clint Penick & Magdalena Sorger

As the world’s entomologists gather in Orlando this week for the International Conference of Entomology (ICE), we thought it a good time to revisit the famous Species Scape—the illustration showing that insects make up the largest portion of life on Earth. We scoured textbooks, scientific papers, and online databases to find the most current numbers for all species that have been described. There are new winners and new losers, but insects still make up nearly half of all species.

The history of the Species Scape began when biologist Quentin […]

By | September 25th, 2016|Arthropods, Education, Explainer, Science Art|0 Comments

Glowing Ants

Just in time for Halloween, MJ Epps and I have created glowing ants. Like mad scientists, we locked ourselves in our office last week with only the faint glow of a black light escaping under our door. With petri dishes scattered across our desks and our fingers stained with fluorescent dye, we finally ended up with a colony of ants that glowed.

Why glowing ants? We have been trying to figure out what ants eat. What seems like a simple question can be surprisingly difficult to answer for an animal the size of a grain of rice. For a large animal […]

By | October 31st, 2014|ants, Behind the Scenes|2 Comments

Fifth Avenue and the Entangled Bank: Fashion in Field Biology

For his 1918 field season, ornithologist Edgar Chance made a gentleman’s bet. Like many scientists before him, Chance was, in fact, a gentleman. His family founded one of the largest glass companies in Britain. The same company that put the glass in Big Ben’s clock and the crystal in London’s Crystal Palace. But Chance was also an avid egg collector, and he bet that in one season he could collect more eggs from a single cuckoo than anyone had before.

The science behind the bet, though, is not what drew me to Chance’s story. I’ll get to that later. What drew […]

By | March 11th, 2014|ants, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|2 Comments

The Art and Science of Life After Chernobyl

At first glance, the insect paintings by Cornelia Hesse-Honegger look no different than the images in a Peterson field guide. The subjects are set against a white background and copied in exact detail. Stare at them long enough, and something seems off. A rumpled wing, or a misplaced antenna. The insects are not merely damaged, claims the artist, but have been mutated by chronic exposure to radiation. For the last 30 years, Hesse-Honegger has been collecting and documenting insects that live in and around Chernobyl, the site of the world’s largest nuclear disaster.

I have admired Hesse-Honegger’s paintings for […]

By | January 6th, 2014|Explainer, Q & A, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

The Odor of the Odorous House Ant

A visitor prepares to sniff the odorous house ant. Photo credit: Magdalena Sorger. A visitor prepares to sniff the odorous house ant. Photo credit: Magdalena Sorger.

This past weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences annual BugFest, we convinced a couple hundred people to sniff ants. We started off light, with a bouquet of lemon and citrus from the citronella ant, Lasius claviger. Then we plowed ahead, shoving an angry carpenter ant under the nose of anyone who would take it to demonstrate the acrid, vinegar smell […]

By | September 26th, 2013|ants, Events, Participate, Projects|17 Comments

Nature in Your Backyard: Fungus Gardeners

One of my favorite past times is flipping rocks. It sounds boring, I know. Maybe not something to suggest on a first date, but by the third date or the fourth? It’s a possibility.

For me, flipping a rock is like unwrapping a present. There is an element of surprise. Once, there was a tiny rattlesnake coiled beneath a rock in Arizona, and I gently set the rock back down. Usually though, I’m hoping to find ants.

So last week when our field specialist Melissa Burt said, “I think I found something,” I quickly stopped what I was doing and went to […]

By | September 5th, 2013|Nature in Your Backyard|0 Comments

Top 10 ways an ant’s house is similar to your house

When the region of Cappadocia found itself divided between hostile nations, rather than flee, the people decided to dig in. The landscape was composed of soft volcanic rock carved by erosion over millions of years into odd towers and pockmarked cliffs. Taking a cue from the landscape itself, the people of Cappadocia dug fortresses into the rock to escape persecution from the early Romans, and later, hostile Arabs. In some places, these fortresses grew into underground cities that could house thousands of people. Some reached ten levels deep, and they featured kitchens, sleeping quarters, chapels, storage chambers, and vast defense […]