Rice University researchers discover new species of wasps
Texas biologists recently discovered a new species of wasp barely a millimeter long.
The tiny non-stinging wasp, nicknamed Neuroterus valhalla, is a species of cynipid wasp discovered by Rice University researchers on the branches of an oak tree near a graduate student bar called Valhalla.
N. valhalla holds the honor of being the first insect species to be described with its genome fully sequenced, researchers say in a document on the wasp published in the January issue of Systematic Entomology.
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“It would have been a missed opportunity not to call it something Rice or Valhalla related,” said a graduate student Pedro Brandao-Dias, lead author of the paper, who first collected N. valhalla from the branches of a huge live oak tree near the campus bar in spring 2018.
Researchers at Rice University are now preparing to study how the little wasp may have been affected by the historic February 2021 freeze in Houston.
valhalla and other gall wasps induce host trees to feed and shelter their young by laying a biochemical cocktail with their eggs. the chemicals coax the tree form a crypt, or gall, around the egg which then houses and feeds the larvae when they hatch, according to a press release.
There are nearly 1,000 known species of gall wasps. Some emerge from spherical brown galls that form on the undersides of oak leaves, according to a press release. Others form galls inside branches and others on the flowers of trees, where Brandão first collected N. valhalla.
“Once they emerge, they only live for three or four days,” Brandão said of the tiny insects. “They don’t eat. Their only purpose is to mate and lay eggs.
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