Newly discovered wasp is a parasitic piggyback

Jul 25, 2013
Newly discovered wasp is a parasitic piggyback
Hydrophylita emporos riding on the abdomen of a damselfly. Credit: Yuan Tung Shih

A previously unknown species of parasitoid wasp that rides on the back of damselflies before laying eggs inside their eggs, has been discovered in Taiwan by a team of scientists, including an entomologist from the Natural History Museum.

Hydrophylita emporos is only 1.2mm long and is the first of its subgenus, Hydrophylita (Lutzimicron), that has been found in Asia, and the first observed transporting itself on another organism. The genus contains just four other described species, all from South America.

The tiny wasp was identified by Yuan Tung Shih, from the National Taiwan University, and Andrew Polaszek, from the Museum.

It was discovered when Yuan spotted the minute riding on the back of a damselfly while collecting insects near Taipei and sent Polaszek a video and some specimens to identify.

Eggs for dinner

Adult H. emporos females wait at the base of the damselfly's and then walk down it into the water when the damselfly lays its , and lay their own eggs inside them.

When the wasp hatch they feed on the damselfly's eggs until they are ready to pupate.

Polaszek, an expert on parasitoid wasps, says, 'When I examined the wasps I was amazed as they belonged to a group known previously only from South America – the species from Taiwan was clearly new to science.

'Although the hosts of this genus were known to be damselfly eggs, the hitch-hiking behaviour – known as phoresy – had not been observed previously in the genus.'

Fittingly, the name emporos means passenger.

Rare males

Male H. emporos seem to be extremely rare, around one in every 125 wasps, and may remain underwater for most of their life.

It is not currently know how the wasps manage to avoid being swept away by water currents or, apparently, breathe for up to 24 hours underwater. Yuan and Polaszek are carrying out further studies to reveal the morphological adaptations that allow this remarkable insect to live a semi-aquatic lifestyle.

The scientific description of H. emporos is published in the journal PLoS ONE.


Explore further: Cats put sight over smell in finding food

More information: PLoS ONE 8(7): e69331. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069331

Related Stories

Tiny UK parasitoid wasp discovered

Oct 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new species of parasitoid wasp that feeds on a common whitefly pest has been discovered in the UK by a Natural History Museum scientist.

Fruit flies medicate their larvae with alcohol

Feb 22, 2013

(Phys.org)—A new study in the U.S. shows that fruit flies lay their eggs on a food source with a high alcohol content if they see parasitic wasps in the area, instead of a non-alcohol food.

Recommended for you

Cats put sight over smell in finding food

7 hours ago

Cats may prefer to use their eyes rather than follow their nose when it comes to finding the location of food, according to new research by leading animal behaviourists.

Feds spot third baby orca born recently to imperiled pods

9 hours ago

(AP)—U.S. scientists following endangered killer whales from a research vessel have spotted a baby orca off the coast of Washington state, the third birth documented this winter but still leaving the population ...

Bumblebees make false memories too

11 hours ago

It's well known that our human memory can fail us. People can be forgetful, and they can sometimes also "remember" things incorrectly, with devastating consequences in the classroom, courtroom, and other ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.