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
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.