Insignificant Immortality

If you’ve read more than a posting or two of mine, you know I aspire to all things nerdly. Right? Well, I’m proud to say that I can chalk one more accomplishment off on my quest for ubernerd-dom. We’ve been supporting some work that our friends Dan and Winnie have been doing in Costa Rica to preserve the remaining primary rainforest there. It’s amazing work and they’re amazing people. We took the kids down to visit in February (holy cow – it doesn’t look like I ever blogged about that particularly fun roadtrip, but the pics are up on picasaweb).
Anyhow, they were in town late last week, giving some talks to scientists, philanthropists, and pretty much anyone who likes really cool bugs. Halfway through the talk, Dan pops up a slide of one of the bazillion new species they’ve found in this new chunk of land they’ve acquired for the conservation area. It’s a funky kind of hyperparasitic wasp. And what the heck is a “hyperparasite”? Well, we know that many wasps are parasitic – they lay eggs on/in unfortunate caterpillars, and their larva get a “meals on wheels” deal, feeding off the caterpillar as it tries to go about its business.
Well, the whole parasitic feeding-off-doomed caterpillars niche has gotten fairly crowded, ecologically speaking, so this new wasp has found a different kind of gig. What it does is lay its eggs on the leaf in front of the munching ‘pillar, and wait for it to just eat them up. But when the eggs hatch in its gut, the larva don’t just go about chowing down on the poor dude that ate them. No, these guys hunt around and eat the larvae that other parasitic wasps have poked into their hapless host.
My first reaction was “Eewwwwww!” My second reaction was “That’s sooooo freaky cool!” My third reaction was “Hey, he’s calling this thing ‘Horismenus Cohnorum’. As in ‘Cohn’?” And Dan explains to the audience that yes, it’s named after the Cohn family, who’ve been helpful supporting their research and getting the word out. Says he tried to name it “Horismenus PabloDevonCohn”, but the taxonomists bounced it back, so he went with “Cohnorum” which, he says, means “belonging to the Cohns”.
So, there you have it. My latest badge of ubernerddom: a new species of hyperparasitic wasp, stored in perpetuity in D.C, forever recorded in the Annals of Entomolygy, named in our honor. I’m so jazzed I can hardly type straight.

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