Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers find unique fore wing folding among Sub-Saharan African Ensign wasps


Researchers discovered several possibly threatened new species of ensign wasps from Sub-Saharan Africa -- the first known insects to exhibit transverse folding of the fore wing. The scientists made this discovery, in part, using a technique they developed that provides broadly accessible anatomy descriptions.

"Ensign wasps are predators of cockroach eggs, and the transverse folding exhibited by these species may enable them to protect their wings while developing inside the cramped environment of cockroach egg cases," said Andy Deans, associate professor of entomology, Penn State. "It also may be useful while they are active in their cockroach prey's leaf-litter environment."

This is a wasp.

Credit: István Mikó/Penn State

The researchers used principles of origami paper folding to physically visualize the transverse folding of the wings. In their paper, they included a print, cut and fold template to help readers comprehend the wing fold system.

Credit: István Mikó/Penn State

According to Deans, only a few other insects -- mainly some earwigs, cockroaches and beetles -- are capable of folding their hind wings transversely, along a line between the front and back wing margin, as opposed to longitudinal folding, which occurs along a line from the wing base to the wing tip.

"These other insects fold their wings transversely so that the wings can be shortened and tucked under a modified, shell-like fore wing," he said. "This, however, is the first time anyone has observed an insect that folds its fore wings transversely."

The researchers examined wasps belonging to the family Evaniidae from Sub-Saharan Africa. They named five new species -- one of them, Trissevania slideri is named after their colleague David "Slider" Love, coordinator of farm and greenhouse operations, Penn State. The scientists also created an identification key for the new tribe, Trissevaniini.

" We didn't know these new species existed until now, and at least two of them -- Trissevania heatherae and T. mrimaensis -- are found only in a small patch of forest in Kenya that is threatened by mining activity," Deans said.

According to Deans, to officially give a new species a name one must, among other things, provide a diagnosis that describes how this species differs from others.

"In most cases, the diagnosis lists certain phenotypic aspects of the wasps, such as having a black head or fuzzy hind legs," he said. "Diagnoses are typically written in natural language and using one's own custom lexicon. There is no standard syntax to describe the way an organism looks, which makes these data difficult to extract in any large-scale way."

To get around this problem, the researchers developed a technique that provides broadly accessible descriptions.

"The gist is that one could actually query across existing anatomy data using computers," he said. "For example, one could search for all the species that have fuzzy heads, or all the species that have a patch of hairs on the ventral surfaces of their abdomens. One could then cross-reference the result with information about the surrounding environment, the cockroach host, or the evolutionary history of the wasp. The more we test and refine this approach the better we'll understand its capabilities and utility."

In addition to photographing the wasps' wings, the team used principles of origami paper folding to physically visualize the transverse folding of the wings.

"We used origami, one of the most ancient and simple art forms to understand the wing folding, which, based on our observations through microscopes was otherwise impossible to understand," said István Mikó, research associate in entomology. "In our paper, we included a print, cut and fold template for the readers that helps them and us to comprehend the simple, yet enigmatic, wing fold system of the new tribe,"

According to Mikó, insect wings are common subjects of researchers who investigate bio-inspired technologies.

"The relatively simple wing-folding mechanism of the new tribe can be utilized in advance technologies, such as applying morphing systems in aerospace vehicle research or expandable structural systems in space missions," Mikó said.

The team's results appeared in the May 1 issue of PLOS ONE.

The researchers said that by characterizing the phenotypes of these species of wasps, they are one step closer to understanding the evolutionary history of the family Evaniidae.

"Understanding the evolutionary history of this family of wasps is important because this knowledge will inform our attempts to reclassify the wasps in a way that is robust and predictive," Deans said.

In the future, the team plans to use the same methods it developed to investigate other groups of wasps in the family Evaniidae as well as those in the lineage Ceraphronoidea, small wasps that parasitize many other groups of insects and for which very little is known about their diversity and morphology.


The National Science Foundation supported this research.

Other authors on the paper include Robert Copeland, consulting scientist and acting head of the Biosystematics Unit, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology; James Balhoff, bioinformatics specialist, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Matthew Yoder, biological informatician, Illinois Natural History Survey.

A'ndrea Elyse Messer | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: African cockroach diagnosis history insect insects small species structural technologies transverse

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular doorstop could be key to new tuberculosis drugs
20.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

nachricht Modified biomaterials self-assemble on temperature cues
20.03.2018 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>