Apr 202010

After my post about the blogs that I check daily, Alex Wild commented that someone should map out the connections between the bug blog community, and I thought what better way to do so then to apply some phylogenetic systematics to the blogging community! It was also good timing for this project, as Willi Hennig’s birthday is April 20, and I thought it’d be an interesting tribute to the man who revolutionized the field of taxonomy and systematics. So without further ado, I present to you something that I’m sure will be gracing the cover of Nature in the near future and which will set me up for the first Nobel Prize awarded to a blog:

A Phylogenetic Analysis of Entomology Blogs: A Blogosphere tribute to Willi Hennig

Willi Hennig - The Father of Modern Phylogenetic Systematics

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Abstract: The tenets of  phylogenetic systematics have been successfully used to test the relationships between taxonomic units for almost 50 years, but this is the first study to examine the relationships of the blogs that discuss those taxonomic units. This study involves a data set that includes morphological, physiological, geographical, ecological, and behavioural characters for 63 blogs that have a focus on insects or invertebrates. Results to follow tomorrow!


Blog Selection

Blogs included in this study were pulled from the link lists of Myrmecos Blog, Beetles in the Bush, and from the Nature Blog Network list of Invertebrate blogs, plus a few that I knew of but which weren’t on any list (See PDF with all blogs and links included). A total of 63 blogs were included in the analysis.

Bug Blogosphere Included Blogs – PDF with links

Notes: Myrmecos Blog was coded based off the old WordPress hosted site, not his new location at ScienceBlogs

Character Selection

This analysis includes a diverse selection of character sets (see Appendix I below for a full list of tongue-in-cheek characters and states). The matrix was coded using the blog’s main page, About page, Nature Blog Network list, introductory posts, and information that was publicly available from other locations (i.e. lab web pages). Kind of like an Easter egg hunt for information, but without the bright colours to point you in the right direction…

Character sets were defined as follows:

Morphological – the appearance of the blog

Physiological – the traits attributable to the author(s) that direct the focus of the blog

Geographical – based on blogger’s published location(s)

Ecological – the interactions between the blog and the blogosphere

Behavioural – the dynamics of the blog or blogger(s)

Software used

The matrix and tree diagram were created with Mesquite. TNT was used for the parsimony analysis, using a heuristic search of 10,000 repititions.

Character Weighting and Outgroup

I gave the Blogger Field and Blog Organism characters a weight of 3 in order to provide some substance since there really is no evolutionary relationship between any of these blogs. Snail’s Tales was the outgroup as  Gastropoda is the most “primitive” of the main focus organisms. Ya, I know, we’re getting further from science with every paragraph…

Alright, that does it for methods! The worst is over, I promise! Come back tomorrow to see the tree and find out where your favourite blog fits into the bug blogosphere!

Appendix I – Character States


  • 1. Blog Colour – background
    • White
    • Gray
    • Black
    • Blue
    • Green
    • Red
    • Tan
    • Brown
  • 2. Blog Age – approximation of number of posts
    • <1 year
    • <2 years
    • >2 years


  • 3. Entomological Field of Study – bloggers working on non-insects were not considered amateurs
    • Amateur
    • Taxonomy/Systematics
    • Ecology
    • Behaviour
    • Agriculture
    • Photography
    • Education
    • Gardening
    • Physiology
    • Conservation
  • 4. Career level – Entomology
    • Amateur
    • Student
    • Professional
  • 5. Blog Focus Organism
    • Lepidoptera
    • Hymenoptera (Non-Formicidae)
    • Formicidae
    • Diptera
    • Coleoptera
    • Odonata
    • General
    • Other Invertebrates
    • Orthoptera
  • 6. Illustration – insects and photography seem to go hand in hand
    • No photos used
    • Photos by author
    • Photos sourced from others
  • 7. Productivity – how busy are you?
    • Inactive (No posts in over 6 months)
    • Low Activity (Monthly)
    • Medium Activity (Biweekly)
    • High Activity (Weekly)
  • 8. Blogger Sex -distiphallus vs spermathecae
    • Unknown
    • Female
    • Male
    • Multiple Authors of different sexes
  • 9. Industry Sector – who writes the cheques
    • Amateur
    • Private Industry
    • Academic
    • Government


  • 10. Native Range – home country
    • Unknown
    • Canada
    • USA
    • Brazil
    • England
    • Australia
    • Singapore
    • China
    • Spain
    • France
    • Croatia
    • Israel
    • Japan
    • Turkey
    • India
  • 11. Biogeography – country author resides/works in now
    • Unknown
    • Canada
    • USA
    • Brazil
    • Portugal
    • England
    • Australia
    • Singapore
    • China
    • Spain
    • Croatia
    • Israel


  • 12. Host – beware, double meaning
    • WordPress.com
    • Blogspot
    • WordPress Private Server
    • Private Server with different software
  • 13. Symbiosis – approximation of comments (sourced using Google – links: command)
    • <50 inbound links
    • 50-100 inbound links
    • 100-300 inbound links
    • 300-1000 inbound links
    • 1000+ inbound links
  • 14. Commensalism – sourced from Nature Blog Network
    • <20 visitors/day
    • 20-60 visitors/day
    • 60-150 visitors/day
    • 150-300 visitors/day
    • 300+ visitors/day


  • 15. Cooperation – can’t we all get along?
    • None (Single Author)
    • Paired (Two Authors)
    • Colonial (Three+ Authors)
  • 16. Crypsis – strength in anonymity, like Superman…
    • Author Named
    • Anonymous
  • 17. Sociality – for the Hymenopterists in the crowd
    • Asocial (< 5 links on front page)
    • Semi-social (5-15 links on front page)
    • Eusocial (15+ links on front page)

  6 Responses to “The Ties that Bind Us”

Comments (4) Pingbacks (2)
  1. That is some extensive work, not as much as Diptera, I bet!

  2. Ok, THIS I can’t wait to see!!!

    We grad students apparently have way too much spare time, LOL! (Actually, we’re just extremely proficient procrastinators!)

  3. Heh. Awesome- I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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