Evolutionary biologist Scott Egan has discovered a new species of wasp that deserves the title of “super parasite” just a short walk from his Rice University lab. He reported his discovery in the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity.
Scott Egan, assistant professor of biological sciences at Rice, studies cynipids – bile wasps, tiny insects that biochemically process live oaks. When cypinids lay their eggs on oak leaves or stems, they chemically “program” the tree, causing it to produce bile, which first covers the egg and then feeds the wasp larvae that hatch from it.
The cypinids that are found in Rice, Allorhogas gallifolia, are one of four new species of wasps from the genus Allorhogas that Egan and his collaborators Ernesto Samaca-Saenz and Alejandro Zaldivar-Riveron of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City described in the study.
They also use bile as a resource, and we’re still not sure exactly how they do this, but one thing is clear – they attack herbivorous caterpillars that feed on gallbladder tissue, and the wasp larva eats these caterpillars after they hatch.
evolutionary biologist Scott Egan
In general, over 50 species of Allorhogas have been found in Central America and Mexico, but only two species have previously been recorded in the United States. One on the campus of the University of Maryland in 1912 and the other a few years later in Arizona.
The A. gallifolia found in Rice was collected as part of an attempt to describe the community of natural enemies of another cipinido species, Belonocnema Treatae, scientists note.