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 METHODS AND GENERAL NOTES

     

     COLLECTION ASSESSMENT
     Normally, authors do not make comment on the collections studied. We choose to be exceptional. Ecologists are increasingly aware of the importance of ants within arid
ecosystems. This means that, increasingly, these organisms will be subjected to study. Inevitably, ecologists will find it necessary to refer to systematic collections and taxonomists to provide identifications for their subjects.
     Groups popular to collectors are usually well represented in several collections. Not so for ants. Ants are mostly medium-sized or smaller, usually unobtrusive and not very
spectacular to look at. As a rule ants are collected only in passing or not at all.
     Historically, it has been difficult to get identifications on miscellaneous ant material, for ant taxonomy is formidable to the uninitiated and specialists are not much prone to look at a lot of ordinary, casually collected material. Further collecting tends to be discouraged. Consequently, there is not a great deal of ant material in the more important western collections. We have found, in general, that most collections had either very little in the way of ants or that they had more exotic than native ants. The collections of the California Academy of Sciences (CAS), University of California at Berkeley (UCB) and at Davis (UCD) must be ranked as minor, as far as their holdings of southwestern ants are concerned. We do not disparage these collections, for they have important material. And, such collections can only reflect the interests of their curators, past and present.
     One of the largest collections, not surprisingly, is that of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Since ants often are considered to be pests, any collection emphasizing pests would accumulate many ants. The material is adequately
prepared, but mostly unidentified. The very large collection amassed by George and Jeanette Wheeler (GJW) reflects their long interest in, and involvement with, ants. It is extensive, well curated and, in the case of material collected by the Wheelers, accompanied by field notes on file cards. This collection was invaluable to our study.
     A few specimens from the collections of the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commisssioner's Office (LACA) were examined and included in this study.
     The collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (LACM) is the largest collection of western American ants, especially of the southwestern United States and adjacent Mexico. It, of course, houses the material collected by RRS. In
addition, it includes the very important collections of W. F. Buren, A. C. Cole, Jr., and W. S. Creighton, as well as their field notes. Here, too, is a large library of ant-oriented
literature, with particular emphasis on systematics.

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Date of this version 18, October 2003
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