Scientists Find 186 Previously Unknown Species of Parasitoid Wasps in Costa Rica

Posted on February 24, 2014

Apanteles albanjimenezi

Scientists have discovered nearly 200 previously unknown species of parasitoid wasps in Costa Rica. The wasps were all named after local parataxomonists. There are estimated to be over 10,000 species of moths and butterflies in Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG). The caterpillars of these thousands of moths and butterflies are attacked by species of parasitoid wasps thought to number in the thousands. Most of the wasps remain unknown.

Apanteles albanjimenezi, one of the new species pictures above, was named after parataxonomist Alban Jiménez in recognition of his diligent efforts for the ACG Programa de Educacion Biologica. The white cocoons of Apanteles manuelpereirai, another one of the new wasp species, are pictured below.

Apanteles manuelpereirai white cocoons

The tiny wasps are about 1 to 5 mm long. The researchers analyzed over 4,000 specimens of a single genus of microgastrine parasitoid wasps. 186 new species were found just in ACG. The study also a found that most of the wasps (90%) parasitize just one or a few species of moths or butterflies, indicating the species are highly specialized predators.

Dr. Jose Fernandez-Triana, one of the authors of the paper, says in a statement, "What this study shows is how much we have underestimated the actual diversity of parasitoid wasps, and how much we still have to learn about them. When other areas of the planet are as well collected and studied as ACG has been, the number of new species of parasitoid wasps to be discovered will be mind-boggling."

The research was published here in ZooKeys.

Photos: Jose Fernandez-Triana

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