New Species of Parasitic Wasp Has Alien-Like Lifecycle

0
214

A bizarre new species of wasp, named Dolichogenidea xenomorph, has been discovered in Australia.

Dolichogenidea xenomorph. Image credit: Erinn Fagan-Jeffries.

Dolichogenidea xenomorph. Image credit: Erinn Fagan-Jeffries.

Dolichogenidea xenomorph measures less than 5 mm and is a parasitoid, meaning that its larvae feed on live host insects.

The species has a very long ovipositor, a needle-like structure the female wasps use to inject their eggs into hosts.

Adult Dolichogenidea xenomorph injects its eggs into moth caterpillars that feed on Eucalyptus leaves.

The wasp larvae slowly eat the caterpillar from the inside out, bursting out once they have eaten their fill.

The larvae then change into adult wasps and continue the hunt for more caterpillars in which to lay their eggs.

Dolichogenidea xenomorph is described by Erinn Fagan-Jeffries, a Ph.D. student in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Adelaide, and her colleagues from the South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide.

The species is named for the fictional creature from the movie franchise ‘Alien,’ which reportedly was inspired by the lifecycle of parasitic wasps.

Dolichogenidea xenomorph acts as a parasite in caterpillars in a similar way that the fictional Alien creature does in its human host,” Fagan-Jeffries explained.

“The wasp is also black and shiny like the alien, and has a couple of weird traits for the genus — so xenomorph, meaning ‘strange form’, fits really well.”

Dolichogenidea xenomorph was collected from Queanbeyan, New South Wales and in southern Western Australia, but likely has a wider distribution across Australia.

The wasp is one of three new parasitoid wasp species described in a paper in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

_____

E.P. Fagan-Jeffries et al. 2018. Three new species of Dolichogenidea Viereck (Hymenoptera, Braconidae, Microgastrinae) from Australia with exceptionally long ovipositors. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 64: 177-190; doi: 10.3897/jhr.64.25219