Stop the presses: Bigfoot was spotted in Cary!
OK, so it’s not the Bigfoot you’re thinking of, the 8-foot-tall beast also known as Sasquatch. Instead, it’s the Bigfoot of ants, a species so seldom seen it makes blue moons seem common.
The elusive ant was unknown until the late 1940s. Biologist D.L. Wray discovered it in Concord, N.C., and Bill Brown, an eminent Harvard biologist named it as a new species: Amblyopone trigonignatha.
After 60 years without a sighting, biologists were beginning to doubt its existence or speculate that a mutant had been mistaken for a new species. Then Benoit Guenard, an NC State doctoral student in biology, found a pair of ants under a rock outside his apartment complex in Cary, on a warm January day.
Unaware he’d unearthed the legendary ant species, Guenard photographed the ants and gently placed them back under the rock, so they could make their way back to their queen. They haven’t been spotted since.
Messin’ with Sasquatch
Guenard doesn’t take ants lightly. A specialist in ant ecology who studies under Dr. Rob Dunn, Guenard has spent hundreds of hours creating clickable location maps of every known ant genus in the world.
But when he saw the ants outside his apartment, Guenard didn’t collect them, for whatever reason. Instead, all he took were some photographs. At least, he says now with a wry smile, the photos were in focus.
Those pictures drew the attention of an ant blogger named Alex Wild, who reached the same conclusion Harvard biologist Bill Brown did back in 1949. Another ant specialist at the California Academy of Sciences agreed that Bigfoot had been captured on film.
Calling all Myrmecologists
Guenard’s photos have renewed the call to all myrmecologists—ant experts—and naturalists in the Piedmont regions of North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina, to be on the lookout for North America’s rarest ant.
No one knows why this particular ant is so hard to find, why it’s different from other species of the same genus or why it’s active during the cool months of the year.
Guenard has spent an inordinate amount of time looking for Bigfoot, without success.
He did find two big colonies of the Proceratium silaceum ant, which feeds only on the eggs of spiders. Don’t worry, he collected them.