A terrifying new species of wasp comes equipped with a built-in saw that rivals the claw-like blades of slasher movie murderer Freddie Krueger.
The parasitoid insect sports a series of jagged spines along its back, which it uses to slice its way out of its host.
No bigger than a sesame seed, the tiny wasp is found in Costa Rica, but has never been spotted in the wild.
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Dendrocerus scutellaris sports a series of jagged spines along its back (circled in red), which it may use to cut its way out of its host. No bigger than a sesame seed, the tiny wasp is found in Costa Rica, but has never been spotted in the wild
It is only known from a few preserved insects kept in storage at London’s Natural History Museum since 1985.
In a new study of the 30-year-old specimens, scientists at Penn State University in Pennsylvania uncovered new information on how the mysterious species lives.
Based on its anatomy, the researchers conclude the species – dubbed Dendrocerus scutellaris – is a parasitoid.
Parasitoids are insects that lay their eggs in a host, usually another insect.
Once the larvae hatch they often eat the host from the inside, cutting or chewing their way out of the body once food supplies are low.
Researchers found that D. scutellariswasp is less than 3 millimetres (0.1 inches) long and has a jagged edge along its back.
A terrifying new species of wasp comes equipped with built-in blades like slasher movie murderer Freddie Krueger. Krueger features in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, in which he kills people in their dreams using a pair of clawed gloves
The insect lacks pointy jaws that parasitoids often use to bite their way out of a host, so the researchers suggest it uses its serrated body instead.
When it needs to free itself, the insect may grate the structure – called a mesoscutellar comb – against the inside of its host to slice its way out.
Aside from the serrated back, the wasp also sports bizarre branching antennae.
WHAT IS A PARASITOID?
Parasitoids are insects with parasitic larvae that eat their host – usually another insect – from the inside out.
They often employ a sharp tool known as an ovipositor to deposit eggs under the skin or exoskeleton of unsuspecting hosts.
After a short gestational period, the larvae hatch and begin consuming their host, normally reaching adulthood when the host has died.
Parasitoid species are mostly types of bee, wasp and ant, though some species of fly also employ the gruesome technique.
The biology of parasitoids has inspired several science fiction authors and scriptwriters to create parasitoidal aliens that kill human hosts, including the infamous Xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film ‘Alien’.
Parasitoids are insects with parasitic larvae that eat their host – usually another inset – from the inside out. Pictured is a parasitic wasp that injects larvae into spiders and then sews the host into its nest to pin it down
These may be used to sense new mates or while feeling for new hosts, the researchers said.
In their paper, the researchers, led by Penn State scientist Dr Carolyn Trietsch, wrote that insects like D. scutellariswasp are useful for pest control.
‘While their lives may sound gruesome, parasitoid wasps are harmless to humans and can even be helpful,’ they said.
‘Depending on the host they parasitise, parasitoids can benefit agriculture by controlling pest insects like aphids that damage crops.’