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277 terrifying new species of parasitic wasps discovered in Costa Rica

June 4, 2014

There are thousands of species of parasitic wasps in the world, and this week scientists released a study cataloging 277 new ones. All of the wasps can be found in Costa Rica and all of them are terrifying.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal ZooKeys, released details of the new species, all part of a category of parasitic wasps known as Heterospilini.

Parasitic wasps inject their eggs into other insects. When the baby wasps hatch into larvae, they feed off the host’s insides, predictably killing it. The larvae then pupate, which is a gross-sounding word for when a wasp bursts out of a dead host’s skin.

The Heteospilini have taken this already disturbing birth method to a whole new level, injecting their hosts with viruses that weaken its immune system. The virus actually comes from a template in the wasp’s DNA.

The study’s head researcher, Paul Marsh of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, described the process as “extraordinary and morbid” in a press release. He also said he believes there are many more undiscovered wasps out there.

“We estimate that perhaps another 50-100 species could be added to the total to contribute to the astonishing biodiversity of Costa Rica,” he said. 

 

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