Wasps are beautiful marvels of biology and physics, but don’t feel bad if they creep you out. I mean, they can bite the hell out of you, and there’s also the whole “injecting eggs into the skull of a spider” thing. A newly-discovered species ups the wacky quotient even more, thanks to its enormous jaws that are quite possibly used for sex.
Megalara garuda is large new species of digger wasp, described by Lynn Kimsey of UC Davis and Michael Ohl of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin in a new paper described in the journal ZooKeys. Digger wasps are a huge, diverse bunch with thousands of species described within the group. Digger females are known for paralyzing prey with stings to provide food for their young, but in the case of M. garuda, it’s the male that’s truly wild.
That’s a mouth only a trapped female could kiss. Images: Dr. Lynn Kimsey, Dr. Michael Ohl
M. garuda is huge for a digger wasp, and so unique within the group that it was given the new genus of Megalara all of itself. The males make for quite a spectacle, with positively massive sickle-shaped jaws that are nearly as long as the wasp’s front legs.
So, the obvious question is why would the wasp evolve such giant, unwieldy mandibles? As of yet, M. garuda has yet to be observed alive, so it’s impossible to tell definitively. But looking at other insect species with similarly giant jaws — combined with the fact that, within M. garuda, only males have large jaws — it’s likely that those snappers are used to hold females during mating.
Yep, you read that right: in this case, having a mouth like the claw game at the arcade isn’t for scoring a meal, it’s simply for scoring. Kinda puts a new spin on spooning, doesn’t it?
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