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277 New Wasp Species Found in Costa Rica

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Nov 09, 2013 01:26 PM EST

A new report in the journal Zookeys details a whooping 277 new species of wasp found in Costa Rica.

The wasps all belong to the tribe Heterospilini, according to study authors Paul Marsh, Alexander Wild and James Whitfield, all from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The find adds a vast amount new species to the Heterospilini tribe, bringing the total number of species in the tribe to 286.

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However, the authors add, there could be an additional 50 to 100 species that remain to be added to the register of wasps in the tribe.

"If the numerous unplaced species in the unsorted specimens we have looked at are added to the above figures, the enormous diversity of this genus in such a small locality becomes obvious." Marsh said. "We estimate that perhaps another 50-100 species could be added to the total to contribute to the astonishing biodiversity of Costa Rica."

The volume of new wasps documented also paved the way for some taxonomic innovation. The species were automatically registered on what's called the Zoobank database. By registering the wasps automatically is saves many hours of manual work and reduced the chances of human error in the data-transfer process, the researchers said. 

Wasps in the Heterospilini tribe belong to the braconid family, a large and diverse group of parasitoid wasps with more than 17,000 described species and perhaps many thousands more species that remain undescribed.

"Parasitoid wasps often present some of the most extraordinary and morbid techniques to ensure larval survival within the host," the researchers said in a statement. "Some harbor and introduce into the host specific viruses for compromising host immune defenses. The DNA of the wasp actually contains portions that are the templates for the components of the viral particles and they are assembled in an organ in the female's abdomen known as the calyx. Members of two subfamilies, Mesostoinae and Doryctinae, to which the tribe described belongs, are known to form galls on plants."

 

This image shows a male Heterospilus species.  Credit: Alexander Wild
This image shows a male Heterospilus species. Credit: Alexander Wild

 

 

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