Boring wasp not so boring

A parasitic wasp prepares to drill into a fig. Photograph by Lakshminath Kundanati

A parasitic wasp prepares to drill into a fig. Photograph by Lakshminath Kundanati

I’ve been a little slow to post these past few weeks, just busy with summer activities. I wrote another story for National Geographic’s “Weird & Wild” blog, about the parasitic fig wasp’s metallic ovipositor tip. The wasp uses its ovipositor to pierce the tough skin of unripe figs to lay its eggs, and having a zinc-enriched tip seems to be a way to make it harder and more resistant to wear and tear.

It’s definitely interesting biology, and I enjoyed writing this one because the researchers were actually based in India, at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. It’s not too often that I get to talk to Indian researchers, and I got to find out about some particularly resourceful ways they tackled this topic, including using fig wasps from 2 trees on their campus, and jury-rigging a video camera with a microscope objective to capture videos of the wasps. They still used electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy to study the ovipositor tip in detail, of course.

Be sure to check out the comment on the article for a link to a video and an electron microscope image of the tip as well.

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