Ancient Fossils Found Containing Wasps That Kill From Within, Xenomorph Style

Thursday, 30 August 2018 - 11:59AM
Weird Science
Science of Sci-Fi
Thursday, 30 August 2018 - 11:59AM
Ancient Fossils Found Containing Wasps That Kill From Within, Xenomorph Style
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Image Credit: Screenshot YouTube/NPG Press
As far as iconic horror movie monsters go, the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise are among the scariest because of the invasiveness of the engineered species. All it takes is a bad egg and a quick run-in with a face-hugger, and the next thing you know, there's a killing machine bursting out of your chest. Luckily for us, xenomorphs are not real. Unluckily for us, there are creatures in the real world that employ similar tactics-depositing their killer babies inside of an unsuspecting host so that when they are born they consume their prey from the inside out.

According to Popular Mechanics, a recent study and scan of mineralized anthropods that date back to the 19th century revealed the remains of an endoparasitoid wasp inside of a fly pupae. Swiss entomologist Eduard Handschin studied the remains back in 1944 and made note of the wasp's presence, but he did not have the luxury of 21st century technology to properly get images of the parasite. Entomologist Thomas van de Kamp got the chance to look at the samples in 2016, and after scanning nine samples with no luck, he found what Handschin had promised. "A parasitoid!," he wrote in a blog post for Nature. "As Handschin deduced more than 70 years ago from a faint silhouette, which just as well could be merely an artifact. The wasp literally stared at me from the screen."



Credit: Georg Oleschinski, Steinmann-Institute, University of Bonn via Thomas van de Kamp

State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart curator Lars Krogmann identified the wasp as belonging to the family Dipriidae, which is comprised of tiny wasps species that are all under 8mm long. To get a better look at it, van de Kamp and his team used something called robot-assisted high-throughput synchrotron X-ray microtomography. They began with 29 fly pupae, but when it was all said and done, the team had scanned over 1500 samples and discovered 55 parasitation events, including four new species. "The most numerous species we named 'Xenomorphia resurrecta'," van de Kamp wrote. "The genus name refers to the Xenomorph creature of the 'Alien' media franchise, which was discovered in old eggs and also develops as a parasitoid (at the expense of an unfortunate human host, though). The species epithet points out the 'resurrection' of the species by digital imaging."

The animated rendering below shows the reveal of wasp inside of the fly pupae. Poor fly never stood a chance.

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