Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Aussie Wasp on the Hunt for Redback Spiders

12.09.2012
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 (1768–1771).

"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 closely. It's the first record of a wasp preying on redback spiders and it contributes greatly to our understanding of how these wasps behave in Australia."

With a body less than a centimeter in length, an adult redback spider-hunting wasp is no bigger than its prey. It stings and paralyses the redback spider and drags it back to its nest, where the wasp lays an egg on it. The spider remains alive but is paralyzed. Once the egg hatches, the larval wasp feeds on the spider.

The redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti) is an Australian relative of North America's black widow spider.

"The redback spider is notorious in Australia, and it has spread to some other countries, notably Japan and New Zealand. Redbacks are one of the most dangerous species in Australia and they're mostly associated with human dwellings, which has been a problem for many years," Professor Austin says.

"The redback spider-hunting wasp is doing its part to keep the population of redback spiders down, but it doesn't hunt all the time and is unlikely to completely eradicate the spiders."

Dr Krogmann (who is now based at the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History) and Professor Austin have published a paper about the redback spider-hunting wasp in this month's issue of the Australian Journal of Entomology.

Professor Andy Austin
Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity
Environment Institute
The University of Adelaide
Cell phone: +61 438 378 151
andy.austin@adelaide.edu.au

Professor Andy Austin | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.adelaide.edu.au

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists on the road to discovering impact of urban road dust
18.01.2018 | University of Alberta

nachricht Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>