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Friday, August 31

New Parasitic Wasp species Neastymachus punctatiscutellum found from Western Ghats

Confirming the claims that the biodiversity hotspots still harbor more missing species, researchers at the Forest Research Institute in Dehradun and Institute of Wood Science and Technology, Bengaluru have reported a parasitic wasp species which is new to the science, from Western Ghats, one of the hottest biodiversity hotspots in the world.

Neastymachus punctatiscutellum, new wasp species, wasp western ghat
Neastymachus punctatiscutellum
© Sudhir Singh
As per the finding published in the latest issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa, the researchers have found the new wasp as part of their studies on the canopy of the tropical rain forests in the Western Ghats forest patches in the Indian state of Karnataka. The new wasp belongs to the Encyrtidae genus and was named as Neastymachus punctatiscutellum, according to the research note, “after the distinct punctate reticulate sculpture of the scutellum’ of the wasp.

The newly identified wasp has yellow or brownish yellow body with yellow antenna. The scape and club of the antenna are usually brown while the specimen’s legs are in pale yellow, says the research note.

The new species adds to the 13 member Neastymachus genus, among which 6 are found in India excluding the new comer.  The present species is so far reported only from Western Ghats in Karnataka.

Neastymachus punctatiscutellum, new wasp species, wasp western ghat
frontal view of N. punctatiscutellum head
© Sudhir Singh
According to the research note, the new species can be distinct from other known species of wasp under the same genus. The flat and ‘V’ shaped apex and the dark brown colour with lateral white strips makes it different from similarly looking members of the genus. The deep punctuate reticulate sculpture of the scutellum, flattened scape and the asetose scutellum also make it distinct from other wasps.

Conservation significance of the new species
Interestingly, the researchers stumbled on the yet unknown wasp while studying about the biodiversity in the rainforest canopies in the Western Ghats. 

Subsequently, they have found a female of the species from the canopies of Vateria Indica, a critically endangered tree endemic to the high-altitude rainforest patches of Western Ghats. It was found in Makuta near Virajpet in the Coorg district of Karnataka. The tree was approximately 40 meters tall and was located at an altitude of above 128 meters from the mean sea level. Moreover, the wasp was found at the canopy of the tree during its flowering season.

Though the relation between the new wasp species and Vateria Indica is not yet reveled, there are chances that the newly found insect had a significant role in the life of the tree. If the wasp helps in the pollination of the tree or anything like that, the conservation status of the new wasp will be a decisive factor in the survival of the critically endangered tree which is endemic to India. 

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