The Wasps with Zinc-Tipped Drill Bit Ovipositors

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For female fig wasps, the best place to lay eggs is in the developing fruit of the fig plant. And for parasitic fig wasp females, a fig that contains the larvae of other insects is that much better. By parasitizing these wiggly grubs, she gives her own eggs the best start.

In order to bore her way through the tough, woody unripe Ficus racemosa fruit to find larvae already developing within, the female is equipped with a really long, skinny ovipositor — a needle-like appendage for injecting eggs.

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Using scanning electron microscopy, the duo took a high resolution look at the tips of the insects’ ovipositors. They discovered that the end of the parasitoid wasp’s ovipositor looks like a drill bit.

Turns out, the serrated structures are enriched with zinc for hardness, enhancing the wear resistance of the drill bits.

When they used an atomic force microscope probe to see how hard the zinc-enriched teeth were, they got a hardness value of 0.5 GPa. “That is almost as hard as the acrylic cement used for dental implants,” Gundiah explains.

Via IFL Science!

This entry was posted in Science by Heretic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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