Class of 1983
many years scientists believed that ants evolved from wasps at about
the time dinosaurs roamed the earth 100 million years ago.
In 2000 Brian Fisher may have found the “missing link”
between ants and their evolutionary wasp ancestors.
While on a research expedition on the island of Madagascar
(off the east African coast), Brian examined a rotting log.
As Brian told the New York Times, “I pushed through an area
that was soft and all these ants came storming out and biting my
I yelled a scream of joy.”
Brian found was a new species of Adetomyrma ants.
These ants lacked the usual waist-like constrictions between
the back part of the ant’s body, called the gaster, and the
This suggested the link between modern ants and wasps.
Brian also made the rather grisly discovery that the adult
ants from this colony apparently suck the blood of their own young
for food, causing him to dub them “Dracula” ants.
discovery has led to much additional research in his role as
Assistant Curator of Entomology at the California Academy of
Sciences in San Francisco.
This research includes DNA studies to determine the ants’
genetic relationship to other ants.
He is also coordinating studies with other scientists.
research is extremely important as development continues to
eliminate wilderness areas.
Species inventories, such as those Brian conducts, help
determine what areas are most critical to preserve.
On Madagascar, for example, the varied ant populations might
necessitate four or five different preserves in order to preserve
Brian told California Wild magazine, “It’s kind of like a
rescue mission for biological information.
We want to figure out what the amazing pieces of the
diversity puzzle are before we lose them.”
work has taken him to many parts of the world, including Panama in
Central America and Gabon in Africa, in addition to Madagascar.
He is also the inventor of a collection device used to hold
specimens known as a “mini-Winkler” that is now used by many
entomologists in the field.
holds a B.A. in Biology from the University of Iowa, an M.S. in
Biology from the University of Utah, and a Ph.D. in Entomology from
the University of California at Davis.
He lives in San Francisco.