Apr 212010

Although slightly modified from what E.O. Wilson actually said (birds, blogs, same thing right?), the title is most certainly true! Yesterday I introduced you to my blogosphere project, where I began looking at how insect blogs are related. Today, you’ll see the piece de resistance, and we’ll talk a little about what we see! Hold on tight and get ready for a bloggy family reunion!

Drum roll please…. dadadadadadadadada….

Phylogenetic Tree of Insect Blogs

Click image to find where you belong!

Can you see your blog from here? I gotta say, the tree actually has a lot better resolution than I thought it might, so lets take a look at some of the trends that are happening here.

First, lets map the Field of Study:

Phylogenetic tree of insect blogs coloured by field of study

Looking for a blog career? See who's in the neighbourhood! Click to enlarge

With these, to quote a certain Geek, OMGSHINY branches, we can see that weighting works! Holy cow! But what else can we see? Well, there are a heck of a lot of taxonomists out there blogging away. Hennig would be proud! Also, we can see the role that amateur entomologists play in the dissemination of entomological knowledge. Amateurs are covering a ton of different topics and helping to make sure that insects get the respect they deserve. Not only that, but there are a ton of people showing off their own insect photos (not mapped here, but most of those red branches have their photos out there for the public to ogle over, plus a lot of the other coloured branches too). With this much exposure it’s no wonder that insects are making the news in a good way more and more!

The other question I was curious about was to see how insect families may cluster and whether there might be any comparison to the true tree of life…

Phylogenetic tree of insect blogs with insect families mapped

Are insect blogs as diverse as the Insecta? Pretty close! Click to enlarge

That mass of purple branches tells me that most people like to dabble in all the six-legged creatures they come across in their journeys. But look at that ant hill in the middle! Quite the network that formicidologists have established for themselves isn’t it? But alas, they’ve rendered the coleopterists paraphyletic! Oh, the humanity! Doesn’t look like our tree of blog is going to follow the tree of life.

Considering that beetles and flies are way out ahead in the diversity race, it seems unfortunate that so few people are blogging about these groups (as their main focus, beetles tend to show up frequently in the general category). I’d love to see these two regions expand in the future, so if you’re an up and coming dipterist or coleopterist, please consider sharing your thoughts with the blogosphere!

The last thing I want to comment on is the huge skew between male and female insect bloggers. Of the 58 blogs where I could determine the author’s sex, only 28% of them were written solely by women. Even more concerning perhaps is that 38% of these women bloggers choose to remain anonymous, while not a single male blogger chose to stay private! With studies consistently showing that women are hard pressed in academia and the work place, I wonder if a desire to remain anonymous is a side effect or perhaps defense against further discrimination. If anyone would like to further discuss this trend, I’d be interested to learn more, if for no other reason than to help make the entomological field a more equal and inclusive environment for everyone!

Well, that wraps up the discussion for today. Thanks for taking the time to read along with this experiment, and if you’d like to see the data set and play with some analyses of your own, feel free to contact me and I’ll send it your way! Also, if you’d like your blog to be included in future analyses, I’ll be setting up a form for you to submit all the relevant information. I think I’m going to try and make this an annual event around Hennig’s birthday, and start tracking the insect blogging landscape and see how relationships change over time (hint hint, it’s evolution at work), so the more the merrier. If your blog is already included, I encourage you to keep blogging and to get to know your neighbours, you never know who may be occupying the bandwidth next door!

  29 Responses to “When you have seen one ant, one blog, one tree, you have not seen them all”

  1. What fun – bravo!

    Beetles are not paraphyletic. Your analysis simply supports the notion that ants actually are beetles – as even Alex has admitted. There is no Formicidae, only a much larger Coleoptera :)

  2. OMG! I have to run to my lab, but I will be back to procrastinate, er, read this more thoroughly later!!!

  3. Dude, you’re on Myrmecos!!!

  4. Ted, just what the world needs, MORE beetles! Love your take on the tree, just hope it doesn’t start more controversy! 😉

    Geek, some say procrastination, I say learning! I actually managed to learn a few tricks with Mesquite in the process of doing this that will be directly applicable to my thesis. Blogging FTW! And ya, the Myrmecos attention is pretty cool! :)

  5. Very good! Though I wouldn’t class my blog as ‘Non-Formicidae.. it’s just the bees generate the bulk of the news headlines..

  6. This is REALLY outstandingly creative, Morgan. On first skim I thought the first image was pretty amusing. The second image made clear to me that you actually were serious (to the extent that you can be with this type of thing). The third image is fascinating and downright useful! I think I need to read your earlier post…

    Like Alex Wild’s recent post regarding E O Wilson’s, you hit this one out of the ballpark. Clever, creative, clear passion for both arthropods and blogging, building community in a way that probably never occurred to the rest of us, engaging writing style, plus we can take your data to interpret in a million different ways depending on our mood at the moment.

    This could be no better!

  7. Thanks for the kind words everyone! I’m glad that you’re all getting a kick out of it!

  8. Wow that is really fantastic! I love seeing the breakdown by family, interesting how paraphyletic lepidoptera is.

  9. That’s brilliant! I’m surprised there are so few Lepidoptera blogs! And the world definitely needs more snails.

    (Apologies if this appears twice. Problems with the satellite connection.)

  10. This is superb! Been away for a few days, and it seems in that short space of time everyone has been bringing out some great posts.

    Really enjoyed this one!

  11. What a cool idea, but may I suggest you refine your character state dataset?My Entomological field of study: “gardening”? “gardening”? Sorry, but it is like saying Myrmecos is a “studio blog” because it often shows ant photos taken inside white boxes. Why is behaviour not there? or Natural History? Bugblog is a mainly a behaviour blog – surely, most beasties I feature are from my garden, but gardening is anecdotal to the blog – my main interest is to show that you don’t have to go to Borneo to watch really cool behaviour of really cool bugs.

  12. Sorry Blackbird, I do have a state for behaviour but I apparently missed the focus of your blog (and looking back at your blog now I can clearly see it says behaviour… must have been late when I coded that one). Thanks for the heads up and I’ve made the change to the matrix for future analyses!

  13. This. Is. So. Awesome!

    =D Glad I’m not the only hopeless phylogeek out there! However, having been around molecular biologists too long, I used URL character strings and also “sequenced” the blog posts in question using “evolution” as a primer, then did an admittedly crappy alignment, and ran the thing through Mesquite. The result was this: http://skepticwonder.blogspot.com/2010/02/carnival-of-evolution-20.html

    You should now compare the reliability of using morphological characters against ‘molecular’ data, ie strings of characters. Would be interesting if you could infer a thing or two about character evolution while you’re at it ^^

    Now if I spend the next 5 hours playing with Mesquite instead of cramming for my physchem final, I’m so gonna blame you along with the creators of the damn thing…

  14. PS: Are there no blogging molecular/cell/developmental entomologists? =(

  15. Where’s mine? :(

  16. Psi – That’s hilarious! I love the screen shot of your “aligned” matrix! I was trying to figure out someway to include “molecular” data and figured I’d just ask for hair samples and do some microsatellite work or something!

    Ant – Sorry I missed your page! I’ll have the form up soon hopefully and you and anyone else I missed can make sure you’re included in version 2.0!

  17. I really enjoyed looking at this, especially the bit about amateurs playing a big role! :) My insect blog is relatively new and may not be on the radar yet. I would be thrilled if you would consider it for version 2.0. I’m an ex-journalist turned entomology student, and I hope to eventually specialize in montane orthoptera.

  18. Just had to have a look at this again, for some reason… 😉

  19. this is great! i was looking for a way to find some more bug blogs :) thanks!

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