The parasitic fig wasp Apocryta westwoodi grandi bores holes into unripe figs full of other insects’ larvae (for their offspring to devour after birth) to lay its eggs. The biggest challenge with this is that unripe figs are hard. What’s a wasp to do? Evolve metal-hardened “drill bits” of course.
New research by a team out of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore led by Namrata Gundiah has found that these parasitic wasps have zinc-hardened ovipositors they use to bore into the fruit and lay their eggs. Gundiah and her team started by examining the differences between the Apocryta westwoodi grandi and the other wasps that pollinate the fig fruits themselves.
They made this discovery with scanning electron microscopy on the tips of the wasps’ ovipositors. They found teeth — FREAKING TEETH — at the end that help the ovipositor act as a drill bit. Their non fig-boring counterparts had more of a smooth spoon shape to their ovipositors.
The team fired electrons at the tip of the drill bit ovipositors and recorded the X-ray spectra and found that the teeth of the drill bit were rich in zinc. Not already afraid of wasps? Some of them have evolved metal teeth.
Further study found that the zinc-hardened nightmare teeth on these wasps’ ovipositors are about as hard as he acrylic cement dentists use.
(via Ereukalert, image via Pokeémon)
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