Answer to the Monday Night Mystery: Gonatopus

Although yesterday’s mystery looked like a mutant cross between a toothbrush and a barrette, it was actually the fore tarsi of this gal:

A female Gonatopus (Dryinidae) lays low under a leaf (Illinois).

At first glance the insect looked like a Formica ant worker. The color, texture, shape, and size are about right for Formica pallidefulva. On realizing what it was, though, I went running for my camera. Dryinids are amazing creatures. The crazy raptorial forelegs help females trap leafhoppers into which they inject their eggs.

I’ll give Morgan Jackson three points for picking the structure, and Keith Bayless the full ten points for not only pegging the structure and family but going beyond the initial question to answer the genus and function.

6 thoughts on “Answer to the Monday Night Mystery: Gonatopus”

  1. That’s an amazingly cool wasp. (wasp?) I love insects that subvert their morphological paradigm– anelytrous beetles, brachypterous and parasitic moths, celyphids, etc. How about a “freak week” looking at some of these weirdos?

  2. Do the foretarsi fit into a special part of their prey sort of like a lock-and-key system? I can’t imagine how they would work.

  3. At least Morgan is Canadian. I don’t have a good excuse for why I was checking myrmecos on Independence Day, haha.

    If you’re ever visiting Gainesville in early April, check for dryinids. I was in the courtyard of the FSCA eating lunch last spring and one walked across the picnic table. I ran and got a vial and forceps and spent forever trying to catch it- they are fast. Victorious, I soon noticed that there were dryinids on all the plants in the courtyard, the walls, the fountain, everywhere. I think I collected ten or so right there. Really weird.

    Jason C.- since they want the hopper to live long enough to sustain their young, I imagine the curved part wraps around the hopper, and those weird setae act like padding so they can catch their host but not injure it.

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