Friday, 18 June 2010

Featured insect: Doddifoenus wallacei (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae)

Looking through Zootaxa this morning I came across this and couldn't resist putting it up here...

This is a parasitic wasp named Doddifoenus wallacei. It is in the family Pteromalidae, which is part of the superfamily Chalcidoidea. The wasps in this superfamily are ubiquitous, but not many people notice them as they tend to be very small---most of the ones that I've come across don't get much bigger than 2 mm. When you do notice them and get them under a microscope though, they are some of the most beautiful things you'll see. Metallic golds, shimmering wings and usually some pretty cool looking morphological structures. With D. wallacei though, you don't necessarily need a microscope to appreciate it. Not including its ovipositor ("sting"), it measures between 17 and 19 mm. When the ovipositor is included, the thing measures a whopping 34--41 mm. That's massive for a chalcidoid and rightly deserves the "giant parasitoid wasp" in the title. If you're worried about a wasp having a sting that long, please don't. It is believed to parasitise wood-boring insects, and it's long ovipositor is used to bore through wood to get to the victim.

While this species is found in South-East Asia, and so not a South Pacific species, the two other species in the genus Doddifoenus are found in New Guinea and tropical Queensland, Australia. This makes Doddifoenus one of the creatures that crosses Wallace's Line, the famed division which separates the Asian biota from the Australian. Like all of humanity's categorisation of the natural world, it breaks down in several details, however as an overall trend it remains useful.


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