Skip to comments.Bizarre "King of Wasps" Found in Indonesia
Posted on 03/31/2012 4:27:39 AM PDT by JoeProBono
A new species of giant, venomous wasp has been found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi (map), scientists say.
The two-inch-long (five-centimeter-long) black insects are shrouded in mysteryall of the wasp specimens caught so far have been dead.
"I'm not certain any researcher has ever seen one alive, but they are very bizarre-looking," said study co-author Lynn Kimsey, an entomologist at the University of California, Davis, who co-discovered the insect.
"It's the extreme version of the [larrine wasp] subfamily they belong to."
Larrine wasps typically dig nests for their eggs and larvae in open, sandy areas. The adults grow no longer than an inch (2.5 centimeters)making the newly discovered Megalara garuda the "king of wasps," according to the study authors.
Wasp Males' Spiky Jaws
Female M. garuda wasps look like most other wasp species, but the males grow long, sickle-shaped jaws.
The males' flattened faces and large, spiked jaws may be clever adaptations to protect a nest that contains vulnerable larvae, she suggested.
"Other wasps of the same species often rob burrows for food, and parasites try to get in there, too," she said. "There's a serious advantage to having the nest guarded. This may be how the male helps guarantee his paternity."
(See "Pictures: Wasps Turn Ladybugs Into Flailing "Zombies.")
In general, "we don't know what this wasp does," Kimsey said. "But it probably feeds its larvae grasshoppers or katydids, like other wasps in its subfamily."
"Mythical" Wasp Under Threat
Kimsey and co-author Michael Ohl, of Berlin's Humboldt University, caught their first glimpse of the new wasp in Indonesia's Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense, where the bugs had been kept in storage since 1930. Ohl also found unidentified specimens at the Humboldt Museum in Berlin.
On a 2009 expedition, the team found more wasps at a cacao plantation in the southeastern mountains of Sulawesi. In naming M. garuda, the team looked to the national symbol of Indonesia: a mythical half-human, half-bird creature in the Hindu religion called Garuda.
Although as many as a hundred thousand species of insects may live on Sulawesi, Kimsey suspects "only half have names."
But the fates of these speciesincluding the newfound waspare in jeopardy. Since the 1960s forests in the region have been increasingly leveled to plant several types of crops. (Read about rain forest threats.)
"The place where we collected wasps is slated to be an open-pit nickel mine," Kimsey said.
"Just thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach."
I don't think it would be too difficult or hazardous to "catch" dead wasps. On the other hand, I guess it reads better than "I saw this dead wasp on the ground and picked it up." Sort of loses the whole "Indiana Jones" exploration theme.
I’m not sure about that, but there lots of interesting edibles out here. A few years ago I ordered a can of wasp larva and and a jar of roasted grasshoppers from northern Japan. They are great rice toppings. I love eating strange food.
Probably the same place the Federal Reserve gets money - out of thin air!
I saw a blurb on these almost a week ago and thought that maybe we're having a flash forward. Just gotta stay away from those critters.
Although there were a few differences in the movie, I thought it was well done.