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Brand new ant species named after TV star academic Iain

13 December 2007

The world's leading insect expert has identified a brand new species of ant during a TV show and named it after the presenter - a University of Plymouth academic.

American Dr Brian Fisher suggested the new species be called iainstewarti after the University's geology expert Dr Iain Stewart, when they discovered it during a filming trip to Madagascar. Now TV viewers will get their first glimpse of the new species of ant in the forthcoming episode of Dr Stewart's BBC TV series Earth - The Power of the Planet, to be screened on Tuesday December 18.

Dr Stewart and his film crew joined Dr Fisher on one of his many expeditions into some of the world's most remote forest areas to track down new species of ants for the last episode in the BBC2 series. Dr Fisher, recognised as the world's top expert on ants and other insects, had heard about the existence of the new species of ant, which is closely related to the Cerapachys genus and during filming in a remote area of primary forest in the south of the island, managed to find it.

It was Dr Fisher's idea to name the new species after the show's intrepid presenter and Dr Stewart said he was very honoured to accept.

"There are millions of insect species around the world just waiting to be discovered, particularly in remote forest areas in places such as Madagascar," said Dr Stewart. "It was an extremely exciting moment to track down this particular species and of course I am very honoured with its new name. It is great for me, but admittedly, perhaps a more dubious honour for the ant."

Entymologists have finished the task of genetic sequencing to determine the Iainstewarti is a new species, but it will take another year to study the genetic data and publish it formally. Dr Fisher logged a temporary name for the ant on the official antweb site while he came up with the proper title and eventually suggested it should be called cerapachys iainstewarti.

The episode featuring the ant discovery is the final one of the five part series 'Earth - The Power of the Planet', in which Iain, a lecturer in the University's School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences, has examined if mankind really does pose the greatest risk to the planetís future.

Programme makers have used ground breaking imagery and the latest scientific discoveries to explain in detail how this unique and remarkable planet functions. Each chapter examined one of Earth's most powerful forces - impact, heat, atmosphere, ocean and ice and then looked at how these forces work to keep Earth alive as well as how they drive the planet to shape its destiny.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For further information please email: publicrelations@plymouth.ac.uk  

About the University of Plymouth

The University of Plymouth is consistently ranked as one of the top five modern universities in the UK and is a national leader for teaching excellence. This achievement has helped it to secure an extra £33 million in funding over the next five years. It is one of only two universities to have been awarded seven prestigious National Teaching Fellowships and also demonstrates research of both national and international excellence.

With around 30,000 students (including those who study at partner FE colleges within the University of Plymouth Colleges faculty) it is one of the largest universities in the UK - and proud to retain its reputation for friendliness. With a track record of 'widening participation', business partnerships and vocational courses, it has a high rate of graduate employment and is committed to improving the student experience, demonstrated by significant investment in new facilities.

Image of iainstewarti ant Image of iainstewarti ant