March 24, 2012
The King Of Wasps And Scorpio Rising
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 wasp´s 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 wasp´s 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 it's a way of guaranteeing paternity. Additionally, the jaws are big enough to wrap around the female´s thorax and hold her during mating."
In what appears to be some kind of taxonomic cold case, Kimsey´s 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 California´s 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.
The new species, which measures about 16mm, is identified by the presence of a conspicuous spine at the base of the stinger. Previously known species of this type of scorpion are rarely observed in the wild. Researchers speculate that either these scorpions occur at very low densities or have limited surface activity hinting at the possibility that these scorpions are subterrestrial. In this instance, the scorpions would spend the majority of their time deep in rock crevices or among piles of rock.
Scorpions, having eight legs, are related to arachnids and although the most biodiversity of scorpion populations are found in subtropical climates, they can be found in almost any habitat. There are approximately 1400 know species of scorpions, about 25 of those are lethal to humans.
The new species joins the genus Wernerius, which can be found primarily in southwestern region of North America. The various types of scorpions comprise the majority of biodiversity in this arid, desert section of the United States.
(1) Kimsey LS, Ohl M (2012) Megalara garuda, a new genus and species of larrine wasps from Indonesia (Larrinae, Crabronidae, Hymenoptera). ZooKeys 177: 49-57. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.177.2475
(2) Webber MM, Graham MR, Jaeger JR (2012) Wernerius inyoensis, an elusive new scorpion from the Inyo Mountains of California (Scorpiones, Vaejovidae). ZooKeys 177: 1-13. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.177.2562
Image 1: This is a close view of the enormous jaws of the male wasps. Credit: Dr. Lynn Kimsey, Dr. Michael Ohl
Image 2: This is a Megalara garuda, male. It is also known as the King of Wasps. Credit: Dr. Lynn Kimsey, Dr. Michael Ohl
Image 3: This is a scorpion glowing under ultraviolet light. This specimen is a Northern Scorpion, a broadly distributed species that was also found in the Inyo Mountains. Credit: Michael Webber