Article image

Newly discovered wasp species named after Oreos, Dr Who characters

Ten new parasitic wasp species from Australia have been described by researchers from the University of Adelaide.

The researchers took inspiration from Oreo cookies and the popular television series Doctor Who when coming up with names for the new species.

“I named one wasp Sathon oreo as the antennae are dark brown with a thick white stripe in the middle… like an Oreo chocolate biscuit,” said Dr. Erinn Fagan-Jeffries from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences.

A study detailing the ten new species was published in the journal Zootaxa.

One species, Choeras zygon, injects its eggs into caterpillars, and the newly hatched wasps eat their way out of the live caterpillar. Choera zygon is named after the fictional Zygon aliens in Doctor Who that utilize similarly gruesome parasitic traits when inhabiting a host.

Choeras zygon, Image Credit: Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries

It may be an unpleasant way to die for caterpillars, but the researchers stress that parasitoid wasps are important in keeping caterpillar populations in check and play a crucial role in the ecosystem.

Another species was named after the Bush Blitz television show which is a collaboration between the Australian government and Earthwatch Australia to document Australia’s wildlife and vegetation.

The researchers analyzed wasp specimens collected from six different Bush Blitz surveys in South Australia and Tasmania.

“Less than 10% of this group of wasps have scientific names, which is why programs like Bush Blitz are so vital,” said Jo Harding, the manager of Bush Blitz. “We have discovered over 1,660 new species since 2010, and 17 of those are wasps.”

The names and their origins may be unique, but when it comes to taxonomy, naming is a vital part of the game.

“Until taxonomists name and formally describe a species, it is difficult for other researchers, such as those working in conservation, or biological control, to do anything with it,” said Harding.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

Main Image Credit: Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day