Saturday, 3 October 2020

Parasitic Wasp Fossils Sting Creationists

Ensign wasp embedded in fossilised amber
Salute the venerable ensign wasp, killing cockroaches for 25 million years | Oregon State University

It is finds like this that makes observing Creationists so much fun.

On the one hand, they grasp at fossils such as these, which are strikingly similar to the modern-day species, and proclaim them as evidence that there has been no evolution for 25 million years. On the other hand, they have to explain a 25-millionyear-old fossil on an Earth that they believe is less than ten thousand years old.

It's enough to make even the most swivel-eyed, science denying Creation pray for guidance (or more likely wait for one or other Creationist disinformation sites to come up with a cobbled rationalisation - which may well be some time coming).

Ensign wasps embedded in fossilised amber
The interesting thing from a biologist's point of view though is not what these fossils tell us about the evolution of these species over the past 25 million years or about the age of the Earth. None of that is in any doubt nowadays and not something mainstream science concerns itself with. The interesting thing is that the presence of these adapted hymenopterans, which are parasitic on cockroaches, is a strong indicator that cockroaches were also around and being parasitises by these wasps, 25 million years ago.

Ensign wasps get their name from the way they hold their abdomen in the air, like the flag of national identity at the rear of a ship. There are some 400 species with a world-wide distribution on all continents except Antarctica. These fossils were found in amber from Dominica and Mexico by researcher, George Poinar Jnr, at Oregon State University College of Science. His findings were published recently in the journal Historical Biology.

Three new species of ensign wasps (Hymenoptera: Evaniidae), Evaniella setifera sp. nov., Evaniella dominicana sp. nov., and Semaeomyia hispaniola sp. nov. are described from Dominican amber and Hyptia mexicana sp. nov. is described from Mexican amber. Diagnostic characters are presented and a key to the species of Evaniidae from New World Tertiary amber is provided. These descriptions show new and possibly unique morphological features of ensign wasps that existed during the Tertiary. The location of possible hosts of Evaniella setifera is suggested based on three alate termites (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) in the same piece of Dominican amber.

Three of these species are new to science and have been named Evaniella setifera, Evaniella dominicana and Semaeomyia hispaniola from Dominica. A fourth, Hyptia mexicana, from Mexico was also found.

Because their presence is almost always an indication of the presence of cockroaches, these wasps have been called harbingers of cockroaches. They are harmless to humans. The females seek out the egg cases, or ootheca of cockroaches and will lay an egg on or in one of the eggs in the ootheca. When it hatches the grub will eat the egg, then, at each instar, will gradually eat the rest of the eggs in the ootheca and will then pupate inside the protective case. At the end of the process a wasp emerges from the ootheca but no cockroaches.

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