This minute wasp was discovered in the tropical forests of Malaysian Borneo and measures just 0.75 mm in length (750 µm). Its generic name, Wallaceaphytis, refers to Alfred Russel Wallace, who independently proposed a theory of evolution by natural selection at the same time as Charles Darwin after extensive travel, specimen collection and research in Borneo. Parasitoid wasps use modified ovipositors (visible at the end of the abdomen) to lay their eggs inside the body of another animal, often a soft-bodied larva. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larva feed on the larva around them, eating their way out and eventually killing the unfortunate host. Thanks to this gruesome reproductive tactic, parasitoids have been used for pest control in many regions – close relatives of W. kikiae in the genus Aphytis are used to control scale insect populations and reduce their damage to citrus crops around the world.
Image courtesy of Andrew Polaszek and the Wellcome Trust. See more from the Wellcome Image Awards here.
Generic name: The name of a genus, a taxonomic rank denoting a group of species.
Ovipositor: An organ used for the laying and deposition of eggs.