Scientists have identified two new wasp species, years after the specimens were first collected from the wild. The two new species, Abernessia prima and Abernessia capixaba, belong to the rare pompilid genus Abernessia, and are believed to be endemic to Brazil. They made the discovery while examining spider wasp collections from museums in Brazil and Denmark, and published their findings in the journal ZooKeys.
Cecilia Waichert from Utah State University said one specimen was collected as far back as the early twentieth century, while the other was more recent.
“We only know of four species and five individual neotropical spider wasp specimens of the Abernessia genus,” Waichert said. “Unfortunately, we know very little about these new species, but this finding increases our knowledge of the their distribution, diversity, and morphology.”
This image shows the gorgeous black new wasp species Abernessia capixaba. Credit: Felipe B. Fraga/Cecilia Waichert.
Spider wasps in the Pompilidae family take their name from their parasitic relationship with spiders. The wasps sting and paralyze the spider then lay a single egg on its abdomen. After hatching, the wasp larva drains the paralyzed host spider of fluids, slowly killing it, for its first meal.
However, researchers have so far been unable to learn much about the new species’ behavioral patterns, and there are no studies planned for the immediate future.
This image shows a female of Abernessia giga, a species that took its name from the impressively large size of the specimen. Credit: Cecilia Waichert.
“Species from the Abernessia genus are rare in museum collections and no one has ever observed their behavior or studied their ecology,” said Waichert. “Specimens found within museum collections are very important, as they serve as reference for several studies, including ecology, pest management, genetics, conservationism.”
“We have found that these spider wasps are morphologically similar to pompilid species that hunt trap-door spiders. Perhaps species of Abernessia also prey on trap-door spiders, but we can only guess their behavior.”
- Waichert C, Pitts JP (2013) Two new species of Abernessia Arle (Pompilidae, Ctenocerinae). ZooKeys 353: 71-79. Doi: 10.3897/zookeys.353.6223