Answer to the Monday Mystery

Yesterday’s challenge required a fair amount of knowledge about the peculiarities of wasp development and morphology. Thus, I’m pleased the answers surfaced so quickly!

Here is a color photograph of the same species, a braconid wasp from Costa Rica:


Counting abdominal segments was tricky for two reasons. For one, most Hymenoptera have the first true abdominal segment fused to the thorax, so that functionally and visibly it is not part of what appears to be an abdomen. If this seems an obscure concept, I recommend watching ant, bee, or wasp brood in metamorphosis from prepupa to pupa. In many species, we can actually see the first abdominal segment move up and glom on to the thorax. In any case, abdominal segment counts in wasps start with  what appears to be the back of the thorax.

Secondly, this particular family of wasps, Braconidae, has the dorsal plates of abdominal segments 3 & 4 fused. Thus, to count to the labelled segment in the challenge, you have to both recognize the fusion of abd 1 with the thorax, and abd 3-4 with each other.

Points are awarded as follows: 5 to Mr. I Love the Ants for counting correctly, 2 to Katherine for picking the family (though, not full credit for lack of supporting characters),  1 to Matt P for noting the fusion of 3&4, and 3 to Matt Bertone for noting the characters supporting the familial identification.

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