Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Wasp Species Discovered in Indonesia Shocks Scientists

An American scientist working with a team of Indonesians scientists has discovered a new giant black warrior wasp species. The wasp will be added to the list of items named after the country’s national symbol, the mythical bird Garuda.

The insect-eating predator was discovered by Lynn S. Kimsey, a professor of entomology and the director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, while working with 12 scientists from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) during an expedition to the Mekongga Mountains of Sulawesi.

Scientists are shocked by the discovery of the insect, with the male wasp measuring approximately two-and-a-half inches long. Its large jaw may play a defensive and reproductive role similar to other wasps.

“Its jaws are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed. When the jaws are open they are actually longer than the male’s front legs. I don’t know how it can walk,” Kimsey said in a news release. “The females are smaller but still larger than other members of their subfamily, Larrinae.”

“The first time I saw the wasp I knew it was something really unusual,” Kimsey said. “I’m very familiar with members of the wasp family Crabronidae that it belongs to but had never seen anything like this species of Dalara. We don’t know anything about the biology of these wasps. They are only known from southwestern Sulawesi.”

Much of Sulawesi’s biosphere is considered threatened by logging and mining operations. Kimsey said there are now plans for an open pit nickel mine on the mountain.

“There’s talk of forming a biosphere reserve to preserve this,” she said. “There are so many rare and endangered species on Sulawesi that the world may never see.”

“I consider Sulawesi one of the world’s top three islands for biodiversity — that along with Australia and Madagascar,” Kimsey said.

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