This lucky wasp did not get eaten by the spider attacking it. But when we say “lucky,” we mean it only in a certain sense: moments after the wasp’s capture, they were both overtaken by a flow of tree resin and were preserved in amber for the next 100 million years, while their species and their dinosaur contemporaries from the Early Cretaceous period went extinct. The amber fossil is described in a new paper by George Poinar, the entomologist whose investigations into extracting dinosaur DNA from amber-locked mosquitoes inspired the book and movie, Jurassic Park. New research into the half-life of DNA puts that out of the question, but who knows: it might not be too late for these ancient bugs to cut a movie deal.
Photo via Oregon State University/Flickr
A social wasp emerging from its nest
Yeasts are handy little critters: they help produce the alcohol that make wine and beer so deliciously intoxicating. But how they manage to show up on grapes in vineyards year after year, despite freezing winters when there is little for them to eat, is a bit of a mystery. Scientists thought birds could be keeping the yeasts in their guts through the winter, then sprinkling them (ahem) through vineyards in the spring, but turned out the microorganisms couldn’t survive that long in birds.
Parasitic wasps have a terrifying but weirdly impressive knack for taking over the bodies and brains of other many-legged creatures, making spiders weave them bespoke silk cocoons, obedient cockroaches incubate their eggs, and paralyzed, partially devoured ladybugs guard their young. But for the European paper wasp, as a new study describes, the tables are turned: It’s the host rather than the parasite—and the things the Xenos vesparum fly larvae inside it lead it to do are at least as odd as any of the above.
From across the pond comes a ravishing collection of scientific imagery. The Wellcome Collection, a London museum, has just announced the winners of its Wellcome Image Awards.
The 21 award winners, selected from images acquired by the Wellcome Collection over the last 18 months, were chosen both for their ability to enhance scientific understanding and for their aesthetic appeal. Many use colour to better illustrate hard-to-see features. [New Scientist]
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