Friday, 31 March 2017

Of Star Trek, Mark Twain and helmets: 15 new species of wasps with curious names




Date: March 27, 2017
Source: Pensoft Publishers

A total of fifteen new species of parasitic wasps have been described from across the Neotropical region. Apart from belonging to a peculiar group of wasps distinct with large and elongated bodies, the new insects also draw attention with the curious names they have been formally assigned with.

Among them, there are species named after characters from the television series Star Trek and Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, and five wasps bearing species names all translating to 'helmet'. The study, conducted by graduate student Katherine C. Nesheim and Dr. Norman F. Johnson, both affiliated with the Ohio State University, USA, and Dr. Lubomír Masner, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, is published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The larvae of the studied wasps parasitise the eggs of lanternflies and planthoppers. These species inhabit exclusively the Neotropical region, with their range stretching from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the north to Misiones in southern Paraguay. Despite being quite abundant in the region, these insects have remained under-researched until recently.

One of the newly discovered wasp is named Phanuromyia odo, where the species name odo refers to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fictional character of the same name. In the popular sci-fi television series, Odo belongs to a species of shapeshifters called Changelings. The reason for the scientists to associate the parasitoid with the character is the spectacular variability observed within the insect species. In fact, it was this peculiarity that, at some point, led the entomologists believe they were dealing with two separate species.

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