Saturday 10 August 2013

Four new species of Wasp from Cretaceous amber.

Diaprioid Wasps are small parasitoids (i.e. their larvae grow inside the bodies of other animals) that largely target Dipterans (True Flies). They seldom reach more than 2 mm in length. There are three extant families in this group, the Monomachidae and Monomachidae, are known from only a handful of species in South America and New Zealand respectively, while the Diapriidae are more widespread, with about 4000 species described from across the globe. Given the small size of these Insects, it is likely that there are many more undescribed extant species.

In a paper published in the American Museum Novitates on 20 March 2013, a team of scientists led by Michael Engel of the Division of Invertebrate Zoology (Entomology) at the American Museum of Natural History and the Division of Entomology (Paleoentomology), Natural History Museum, and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas, describe four new species of Diaprioid Wasps from Cretaceous Amber from Spain and New Jersey.

Three of these species are placed into a new family, the Spathiopterygidae, two of these from the Early Cretaceous of Spain and one from the Late Cretaceous of New Jersey. Engel et al. note that Spain and New Jersey were quite close to one-another in the Early Cretaceous, so it is possible that this family was restricted in distribution.

The first of these new species is named Spathiopteryx alavarommopsis, where 'Spathiopteryx' means 'paddle-winged' and 'alavarommopsis' means 'looking-like Alavaromma'; the species is described from a single 0.85 mm male Wasp found in Early Cretaceous amber from Peñacerrada in northeast Spain, Alavaromma orchamum is another species of Wasp from Early Cretaceous amber which Spathiopteryx alavarommopsis superficially resembles.

Spathiopteryx alavarommopsis, male specimen in Amber from Peñacerrada in northeast Spain. Engel et al. (2013).

Line drawing of Spathiopteryx alavarommopsis in (A) dorsal and (B) ventral views. Engel et al. (2013).

The second of these new Wasps is named Mymaropsis turolensis, where 'Mymaropsis' means looking like a Mymarid, a reference to an unrelated group of Wasps with reduced hind wings, a trait also seen in Mymaropsis turolensis, and 'turolensis' refers to the Spanish province of Teruel, where the specimen was found. The species is described from a single 0.63 mm specimen from Early Cretaceous amber from an outcrop at San Just in Teruel Province.

Mymaropsis turolensis, specimen in amber from San Just in Teruel Province, Spain. Engel et al. (2013).

Line drawings of Mymaropsis turolensis in (D) dorsal and (E) ventral oblique views. Engel et al. (2013).

The third species in the new group is named Spathopria sayrevillensis, where 'Spathopria' is a combination of the Greek word for paddle and Diaprioid, and 'sayrevillensis' refers to the borough of Sayreville on the Raritan River in New Jersey, where the specimen was found. The species is described from a single 0.8 mm male specimen in Late Cretaceous amber from White Oak Pit in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Spathopria sayrevillensis, male specimen in (somewhat opaque) amber from White Oak Pit, in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Engel et al. (2013).

X-ray Microtomograph Image  (image built inside a computer from a succession of x-ray scans) of Spathopria sayrevillensis, in (A) dorsal and (B) right lateral views. Engel et al. (2013).

The final new species is placed in the extant family Diapriidae and given the name Iberopria perialla, where 'Iberopria' means 'Diapriid from Iberia) and 'perialla' means 'before all others'; it is the earliest known Diapriid specimen. The species is described from a 1.19 mm male specimen from Early Cretaceous amber from Peñacerrada in northeast Spain.

(A) Iberopria periallamale specimen in Amber from Peñacerrada in northeast Spain. (B) Detail of wings. Engel et al. (2013).

Line drawing of Iberopria perialla. Engel et al. (2013).

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