BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Gall wasps are no longer the toughest parasites and are even threatened by another parasitic species of wasp. Scientists at Rice University studied the crypt-keeper wasp and offered information on the new species.
Kelly Weinersmith and Scott Egan, evolutionary biologists at Rice University, issued two papers on the behavior of Euderus set, which they nicknamed crypt-keeper wasp. They declared the wasp shows a rare example of hypermanipulation. This situation involves a parasite which is manipulated by another parasite.
The crypt-keeper wasp lays an egg in the woody haven of the gall wasp. When the parasitic wasp is developed enough, it chews its way to freedom, but how does it do that? – through the wasp host’s head.
The first paper appeared in journal ZooKeys. It describes in detail the new species of wasp. However, the second paper describes its gory process of emergence and it can be found in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The scientists named the wasp after Set, the Egyptian god of evil and chaos. He trapped Osiris, his brother, into a crypt, killed him, and then cut him into little pieces. This resembles of the wasp’s demonic strategy.
The host, Bassettia pallida, usually matures into a crypt (the gull). But the female Euderus set lays an egg in this crypt and prevents the gull wasp from emerging from it in the spring, by making a much smaller hole through which it was supposed to get out. Since this hole is too small, the gull wasp’s head remains blocked in the hole. Afterwards, the parasite consumes the internal organs of the host and makes its way out through the head.
Egan declared that he first spotted the wasp in 2014, on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Then he saw it in trees at Rice University and even in an oak tree in his front yard. After he initiated the study, other specimens were found in Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Since many species of parasitic wasps act as control agents for agricultural pests, researchers want to discover how common is this behavior of the crypt-keeper wasp. This species represents one in many parasites with peculiar lifecycles which has gone undetected so far. They want to continue their study and find out what exactly is happening inside the gull. Thus, they will achieve a better understanding of the new species.
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