Chapter XXVIII

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“Entomology” is commonly mistaken for “etymology.” They are certainly not the same, but sometimes they intersect. In this case, you will see how the body parts of an ant, like the structures of a flower, allow you to apply your knowledge of scientific terminology in a different context.

Ants belong to the order Hymenoptera (hymen + o + ptera, “ wing”), despite the fact that the non-reproducing female workers are wingless. An ant body is divided into a head, thorax, and abdomen, although sometimes other terminology is used for these parts. The thorax may be referred to as the “,” from the Latin meaning “winged trunk.” The abdomen can be broken down into the petiole and gaster. “Petiole” is yet another diminutive form of the Latin pes, “” (cf. “peduncle,” “pedicel”); this name refers to the narrowed area where the abdomen connects to the thorax. (It may also refer to a stalk or stem in botanical terminology.) “Gaster,” as you know, is Greek for “.” The posterior part of the body may also be called the “” (“afterbody,” “posterior body”); in some arthropods this may be paired with a (“forward body”) and (“middle body”). Any distinct, hard body part may be called a “” (Grk. “hard thing”; cf. the sclera of the eye).

Near the , or upper lip, of the ant is a structure called the “clypeus” because of its shape (more properly clipeus, the Latin word for “”). From the head the antenna extends first via a slender columnar structure called the “,” from the Latin for “shaft" or "stem," which is cognate with the English word “scepter.” Attached to the scape is the funiculus, or “little ”; in human anatomy this term may refer to a bundle of nerve fascicles, or to the umbilical cord. The modern use of “antenna” ( “sail-yard” in classical Latin) seems to have arisen from a Latin translation of Aristotle in the 15th century, in which the “horns” (Grk. keraiai) of insects were called antennae.

In the thoracic region, note the terminology applied to features on the back. The is the “forward part of the back,” followed by the mesonotum and (see the -soma terminology above). The side wall located on the thorax is called a “” (Grk. “side, flank”), with its anterior part called the “episternum.” More Greek prefixes are piled on to denote the dorsal and ventral portions of this structure (“anepisternum,” “katepisternum”). Also located on the (Lat. “back”) is the “scutellum,” a form related to the Latin diminutive of scutum (“”). Generally speaking, any body part of an insect may be called a “somite,” the parts of which are called “sternites,” “pleurites,” and “tergites”—that is, ventral, lateral, and dorsal regions.

Other terms are more familiar to the student of human anatomy, such as “femur,” “tibia,” and “tarsus,” which, their relative proportions notwithstanding, are nonetheless generally comparable in arrangement to features of the human body. Yet we may be glad that the correlation does not go much beyond that, as a propodeal spiracle or indeed a tibial spur could be unsightly on a person.