University of Adelaide researchers say a small wasp that scientists had forgotten about for more than 200 years is now making a name for itself as a predator of Australia's most common dangerous spider, the redback.
The wasp (Agenioideus nigricornis) was first described scientifically in 1775 by Danish entomologist Johan Christian Fabricius, thanks to samples collected in Australia during Captain Cook's first great voyage (1768).
"Since then, scientists have largely forgotten about the wasp," says Professor Andy Austin from the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity. "It is widespread across Australia and can be found in a number of collections, but until now we haven't known the importance of this particular species."
The wasp is now being dubbed the "redback spider-hunting wasp" after a family in Beaconsfield, Western Australia, discovered one of them with a paralyzed redback spider in their back yard.
Florian Irwin, then aged 9, spotted the wasp dragging the spider several meters to its nest, and his father, Dr Peter Irwin, photographed the event and kept the specimens. Peter, who is an Associate Professor at Murdoch University, contacted the Western Australian Museum about the discovery; the Museum alerted Professor Austin and research fellow Dr Lars Krogmann at the University of Adelaide.
"The Museum knew we were doing research into the Agenioideus, which belongs to the family Pompilidae, the spider-hunting wasps. Little is known about them, despite various species of Agenioideus being distributed throughout the world," Professor Austin says.
"We're very excited by this discovery, which has prompted us to study this species of wasp more clo
|Contact: Professor Andy Austin, University of Adelaide|
University of Adelaide