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Monday, December 2, 2013

A whole bunch of new wasps

There are a lot of species of wasp. Thanks to Paul Marsh, Alexander Wild and James Whitfield of the University of Illinois, today we know about 280 more species of wasp than we used to. You may be surprised to hear how the scientists found them and how they named them.

Although all these new species originate in Costa Rica, the researchers didn’t have to travel to South America to collect them. The wasps all came from museum collections around the world, mostly from the University of Wyoming. I should point out that 277 of the wasp species were new to science. Yes, nearly 300 types of wasps previously unknown to science were languishing in museum drawers until someone had the inclination to pull them out and examine them a little more closely. Makes you wonder what else is in those drawers, doesn’t it?

At least these wasps finally got their thorough examination. The scientists used still and video cameras, stereomicroscopes and a scanning electron microscope to examine every part of them. Based on their morphology, they were able to classify the wasps within the genus Heterospilus

When naming that many new species, you have to get creative. After you've covered every entomological characteristic, honored the local people, your graduate school mentor and a few Greek gods, you really have to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Several new species were named using 'an arbitrary combination of letters' (H. diecisiete, H. catorce and H. veintitres) or anagrams (H. racostica and H. ricacosta for Costa Rica; H. retheospilus and H. thereospilus for Heterospilus)

And of course, there's H. wildi:

Heterospilus wildi
ZooKeys DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.347.6002.

Named for Alex Wild, whose head is as bald and shining as this species, in recognition of his work on the molecular analyses and imaging of the species in this study.
Alex Wild
By the way, you may have heard the name Alex Wild before. Not only is he an entomologist, but he's also an extraordinary photographer. He specializes in ants, like the Anochetus trap-jaw ant seen below.

Anochetus trap-jaw ant

Danum Valley Field Centre, Sabah Borneo

Anochetus trap-jaw ant Danum Valley Field Centre, Sabah Borneo

You can see the rest of his work here.

Paul M. Marsh, Alexander L. Wild, & James B. Whitfield (2013). The Doryctinae (Braconidae) of Costa Rica: genera and species of the tribe Heterospilini ZooKeys DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.347.6002

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