An inventory of wild-caught caterpillars, its food plants and parasitoids, has been going on for more than 34 years in Area de Conservacin Guanacaste (ACG), a protected area of approximately 1200 km2 in northwestern Costa Rica. As a result, more than 10,000 species of moths and butterflies are estimated to live in ACG. Their caterpillars are in turn attacked by many parasitoid wasps, also numbering thousands of species. However, most of those wasps have never been described and remain unknown.
For the past few years researchers from Canada, Costa Rica and the United States have been studying intensively one of these groups of parasitoids: the Microgastrinae wasps - named that way because most of the species have a short abdomen. These small wasps (1-5 mm long) are one of the most common and diverse groups of parasitoids recovered from caterpillars anywhere.
The authors of this study, published in the open access journal ZooKeys, analysed more than 4,000 specimens of just one single genus of microgastrine parasitoid wasps from ACG: Apanteles, previously known from only three species in Costa Rica. The results are astonishing: 186 new species were found just in ACG. That is more diversity than all the species of Apanteles previously described from the New World. It also represents 20% the world fauna, in less than 0.001 % of the terrestrial area of the Planet!
"What this study shows is how much we have underestimated the actual diversity of parasitoid wasps, and how much we still have to learn about them" said Dr. Jos Fernndez-Triana, one of the authors of the paper. "When other areas of the planet are as well collected and studied as ACG has been, the number of new species of parasitoid wasps to be discovered will be mind-boggling".
The study also found than most of the wasps sp
|Contact: José Fernández-Triana|