The King Of Wasps And Scorpio Rising

March 24, 2012

Brett Smith for RedOrbit.com

Discovery of a new giant wasp species last year has led to the discovery of an even larger species than had been sitting in a collection for 80 years.

Megalara garuda hails from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the same island where a team led by professor Lynn Kimsey (UC Davis) discovered the wasps slightly smaller relative Dalara garuda.

Both species belong to the digger wasp family, a diverse group of wasps that sting and paralyze prey insects. These paralyzed insects are then placed in a protected nest where they often remain alive until eaten by hatched digger wasp larvae.

What separates the two newly discovered wasps from the rest of the digger wasp family is the unusual body shape and extremely large jaws. The large jaws are sickle-shaped and longer than the wasps front legs.

The large jaws probably play a role not only in hunting prey and defense but also reproduction, according to Kimsey.

In another species in the genus the males hang out in the nest entrance, Kimsey said. This serves to protect the nest from parasites and nest robbing, and for this he exacts payment from the female by mating with her every time she returns to the nest. So its a way of guaranteeing paternity. Additionally, the jaws are big enough to wrap around the females thorax and hold her during mating.

In what appears to be some kind of taxonomic cold case, Kimseys expedition to Sulawesi, along with a research team from the UC Davis, last year led to the discovery of the initial giant wasp, Dalara garuda. The island is renowned for its biodiversity, its rainforest and its proximity to the equator. Kimsey is part of a $4 million grant program awarded to UC Davis scientists in 2008 to study the biodiversity on Sulawesi, which is being threatened by logging and development.

Another species was recently discovered in Californias Death Valley National Park. Using ultraviolet light that causes scorpions to glow a fluorescent green, a group led by PhD candidate Matthew Graham of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) located a new species of scorpion. They named the species Wernerius inyoensis, after the Inyo Mountains where it was found.

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The King Of Wasps And Scorpio Rising


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