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.
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!