TechThis is an entirely new species. "Solitary endoparasite" discovered in Peru

This is an entirely new species. "Solitary endoparasite" discovered in Peru

Capitojoppa amazonica - illustrative picture
Capitojoppa amazonica - illustrative picture
Images source: © Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku, ©Kari Kaunisto
ed. KMO
12:34 PM EDT, October 17, 2023

Scientists from the University of Turku in Finland have discovered a new species of insects, as reported by the magazine "ZooKeys". The discovery took place in the Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve in Peru, which is considered to be the place with the highest biological diversity in the world. Over the past few decades, scientists have identified many new species of birds there, and at the end of the 1980s it was documented that this is the place with the highest number of tree species in one area.

The discovered insect species is a wasp, which scientists have named Capitojoppa amazonica. It represents the only known member of this species. These wasps belong to the subfamily Ichneumoninae, that is, parasitic wasps from the Hymenoptera order. They are usually large and colorful, especially those living in the tropics. Their larvae parasitize on caterpillars and chrysalises of moths and butterflies.

Capitojoppa amazonica - no one knew this species before

The newly discovered wasp has a bright yellow color and is characterized by a very large head. It can grow up to 0.67 inches in length and is a "solitary endoparasite," which means that it lays a single egg within the body of a host. Caterpillars, beetles, and even spiders can fall prey to this parasite. When the host is located and caught, the female wasp strokes it with antennae, then pierces it with her ovipositor (an organ used for laying eggs in holes in trees, the ground, or bodies of other organisms) and lays an egg in it.

After a few days, a larva hatches from the egg, which eats the host from the inside. The next stage of development involves the larva growing inside the dead host and only emerging from it in the form of an adult wasp. Feeding on the dead host is not the only parasitic behavior of the new species. An adult wasp, which pierces its body with its ovipositor, besides laying the egg, can suck out the haemolymph from the puncture site, which it feeds on.

"Since 1998, we have been studying the biodiversity of insects in this area and we already know that a record number of species live here. Now Capitojoppa is being added to this collection" - says the main author of the publication, Prof. Ilari E. Sääksjärvi.

The name Capitojoppa was given to a new species based on its characteristics or range, which is a typical approach in naming newly discovered species. "Insects from the newly discovered genus have a large head, which is reflected in the part of the name 'capito'. Meanwhile, 'joppa' refers to the already known genus of wasps Joppa, to which these new ones are very similar. The part indicating the species 'amazonica' refers to the territory where it was discovered" – explain the authors.

The Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve is a part of the Amazon that is characterized by an extraordinary abundance of species. Due to the complex geological history of the region, several different types of rainforests grow in the reserve. The biodiversity of many organisms here is the greatest on the entire planet. Unfortunately, this area is currently changing rapidly as a result of human activity. "In conducting research on insects, we are also trying to find out how human influence, for example through climate changes, alters nature in rainforests," summarizes Prof. Sääksjärvi.

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