An unusual wasp

The mystery wasp (Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia)

Here’s why I love the internet. Within 24 hours of tweeting a new photo of an odd Australian wasp, I received this tweet back from the fine folks at the NCSU insect museum:

I emailed chrysidid expert Lynn Kimsey, a friend from my grad school days back at U.C. Davis. I hadn’t recognized the wasp as a chrysidid- it’s that weird! Lynn replied almost immediately:

OMG!!! I’m currently revising this genus – Loboscelidia. I’ve never seen them alive. We have no idea how they make a living except for one obscure reference to rearing one from a walking stick egg. Do you have any other photos of it??? This is a male.

Awesome. Seriously, awesome.

Twitter got the wasp in front of the right set of eyeballs within a day after I posted the photo. Now we not only know what the insect is, but we know- after some additional sleuthing- these may be the only live photographs ever taken of this species, genus, and subfamily. A Myrmecos exclusive!

Here are a few more:

Loboscelidia sp.
Loboscelidia sp.

To make my life complete, now I just need instant image-processing and tweeting capabilities from remote tropical jungles. Had I known in the field that this bizarre animal was a rare and potentially valuable discovery, I would have devoted more than two minutes to it.

34 thoughts on “An unusual wasp”

  1. Wow, and wow.

    See, not *everything* in Australia will kill you. Some of them will make you famous in the process.

    (Oh, and even without being amazingly rare, that is a wonderful photograph. Might I strongly recommend getting in touch with the big newspapers – the Brisbane Times and the Australian – and writing them a piece about it).

  2. Love it, man. The only reason I recognized that wasp is that I collected one in Cape Trib a few years ago in a Malaise trap. That, and I happen to be close friends with one of the only diapriid experts in the world! (AND I am a blog/twitter/rest-of-the-internet junkie). Thanks for exposing your images to the masses despite the subsequent and rampant pilfering. It means that the thousands of us who love nature get to share in your natural history moments.

  3. Ok, this is tremendously cool. The perfect antidote for the sort of day when I begin to be convinced that the internet, and its associated political commentary, will be the end of civilization. This is the good. This is the usefulness.

    And yeah, these are great pics, as always.

    1. If anyone here is a rock star, it’s Andy Deans. He’s the one who recognized it after my initial misidentification. I’m just the guy with the camera.

      Incidentally, American Entomologist had a recent article on how amateur photographers + the internet were proving useful to hemipteran taxonomists. Ironically, the article itself is not online.

  4. The picture in itself is awesome (as always)
    the subsequent prompt identification, as Cuttle fish mentions above is one of the examples of usefulness of internet (thankfully).

    just Wow…

  5. Wow, if there are any available in collections, I’d sure love to barcode them! Chrysidids have some interesting anomalies in the barcode sequence, but we almost never get non-chrysidine specimens.

  6. Wow – that is a beautiful animal. My initial reaction – probably like many other entomologists – was “What a weird and elegant Diapriid!” Thanks for sharing!

  7. Very cool! It’s one of those taxa you gloss over in the key thinking “it would be neat if I actually saw one of those some day”; and then every once in a while you do!

  8. The occipital area looks so weird, like someone stuck the head onto a blob of glue! I checked out a specimen of Loboscelidia rufa (det. by Lynn Kimsey, of course) and the structure covers the neck, providing some protection. It’s dangerous for a cuckoo wasp to be discovered.

  9. Alex, I’m so happy to see this. And not just because I’m newly appointed to the NC State humanities faculty. Turns out that the Insect Museum was targeted in the Coburn/McCain report as a stimulus fund boondoggle – for a very modest NSF grant – solely because they are called a museum yet get very few visitors (project 68, pg 37 of ;this PDF). What pols don’t understand is that this repository is not designed to host thousands of visitors but rather to serve as a resource for international science, just as they have done here. The museum also does terrific outreach to the public, participating in the annual BugFest celebration (attendance ~35,000) in our capital city each year, educating the public about the importance of insects in everyday life.

    Thank you so much for highlighting the contribution of our superb colleagues at NC State.

  10. And just to keep the social media ball rolling, I sent this url to our hymenopterist. Turns out he has a series of Loboscelidiinae in our unidentified Hymenoptera backlog and he will contact Lynn to see if she is interested. As he says “They totally puzzled me, and I was greatly surprised to when they keyed to cuckoo wasps.”

      1. They’ll be in the mail tomorrow. Gotta wonder what those transparent windows in the hind femora and tibiae are for? Very strange little wasps!

        1. I’ve wondered the same. There’s just so much strange things going on in Chrysididae… (I could go on about it, but I wont)

  11. Loboscelidiinae and Amiseginae is the shit! 😀

    Also: Thanks for finally (albeit unknowingly at first) posting pictures of a chrysidid! Although I would still have to nag about more.. in which case Chrysidinae (or possibly Cleptinae) is as much I dear hope for 😉

  12. Love this! (and all your stuff). I had a similar awesome consequence of uploading an image to BugGuide.net. An entomologist identified the insect as not a new or rare species but unknown in these parts. My joke about it: I took the pic in Golden Gate Park, so it was probably just a tourist.

    Interesting thread about the discovery: http://bugguide.net/node/view/21487

  13. Well there only one thing Alex for you to do. When Mrs M finishes her PhD back your bags and move to Cape Tribulation and see what else you can find up there.

  14. I LOVE this story! Social media FTW! I have a similar tale in the works but I’m waiting for the other party to finish some writing first 🙂

  15. People reading this blog post on the value of social media in science might also be interested to check out Project Noah .

    Anybody with a camera (digital, at least) can participate by posting their sightings. It isn’t always trained scientists holding the cameras, but an unusual organism doesn’t care who takes the picture. Smartphones make it even easier. Project Noah has an app.

  16. Pingback: Links 2/7/12 | Mike the Mad Biologist

Leave a Reply