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Wasp Drill Bits

June 12, 2014

Insects will go to great lengths to pass their genes down to the next generations, including resorting to “power tools” to bore deep into unripe fruit to lay their eggs.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

An insect’s secret weapon. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Parasitic Fig Wasps Equipped With Zinc-Tipped Drilspng

(Laksminath Kundanati)

Fig wasps lay their eggs inside fig fruits. But while some species give back to their nursery trees by pollinating their flowers at the same time, others take advantage of the situation after the fruit has formed. These wasps dig deep into the unripe fruit to lay eggs that feed off the larvae of the pollinators. Mechanical engineers Laksminath Kundanati and Namrata Gundiah of the Indian Institute of Science took a closer look at their egg laying organs.

NAMRATA GUNDIAH (Indian Institute of Science):

We see that the pollinator has a very spoon-shaped ovipositor because she needs to lay her egg in a very soft flower, whereas this parasitoid needs to drill through very hard materials.

HIRSHON:

The researchers discovered that the freeloader uses a tooth-like, zinc-tipped ovipositor to bore deep into the tough fruit. The findings could inspire the development of new ultra-hard materials. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.