Researchers discover monster wasp

Powerful jaws turn insect into a "fighting machine"

Side view of monster wasp Dalara grabuda. © Michael Ohl / Museum of Natural History Berlin
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On the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, researchers have discovered a very unusual, previously unknown wasp species. The male of this black-colored insect has gigantic jaws and is six centimeters long, the scientists report. That makes it more than five times larger than our native species.

"Together with their height and the pitch-black color, this wasp is a really disturbing phenomenon, " says co-discoverer Michael Ohl of the Museum of Natural History Berlin. The researchers assign the newly discovered insect to the digger wasps, an insect group also found in Germany.

Male as a fighting machine

With his unusually long pines above all the male looks like a fighting machine, the researchers say. "When I saw this wasp for the first time, I immediately knew it was something out of the ordinary, " says co-discoverer Lynn Kimsey of the University of California at Davis. "The male's jaws are so large that they are even longer than their front legs when unfolded." Never before had she seen anything like this species among the digger wasps.

The females of the species discovered in the Mekongga Mountains of Southeastern Sulawesi were significantly smaller than the males. The researchers assume that, similar to native digger wasps and the monster wasp, only the females prick to paralyze their prey. In contrast, the males could not sting, say the scientists. However, a bite with her scissor-like pines was certainly painful.

Frontal view of grave wasp Dalara grabuda discovered in Indonesia. © Michael Ohl, Museum of Natural History Berlin

Giant pine as a tool in defense and sex

Nothing is yet known about the behavior of the new species called "Dalara grabuda" because it has not been observed in the wild, the scientists report. It is very likely, however, that the giant jaws of males play a role in defense and sexual behavior. display

"In other species of this wasp group, the males stay at the nest entrance, protecting the nest from parasites and predators, " explains Kimsey. As a reward, the wasp male may mate with the female each time it returns to the nest. KieferThe jaws are large enough to completely encompass the female's fore body and hold it in place when mating.

(Museum of Natural History Berlin / University of California / dapd, 07.09.2011 - NPO)