Scientists name weird Borneo wasp after Alfred Russel Wallace on centenary of death

By Culture24 Reporter | 07 November 2013

A new wasp genus, taken from a single female wasp by a Natural History Museum scientist visiting Borneo, has been named Wallaceaphytis in honour of Alfred Russel Wallace, the man who co-discovered natural selection with Charles Darwin.

Wallace, who died a century ago today, spent more than a year on Borneo between 1854 and 1856, returning with thousands of new insect species, including numerous moths – caught using light traps in an old mine – and the Rajah Brooke’s birdwing butterfly, the protected species and national butterfly of Malaysia.

Experts followed in his footsteps during a two-month collecting expedition on the island.

"There’s still this remarkable hidden biodiversity in Borneo, as well as right under our noses here in England," points out Dr Andrew Polaszek, an entomologist who says the features of the “weird wasp”, which lays eggs inside other insects, represent “clearly distinct” characteristics.

DNA analysis has confirmed the singularity of the genus. The wasps it breeds measure just under a millimetre in length, causing investigators to label them “whoppers”.

“I think it’s a nice way to round off the Wallace100 events at the Museum,” added Polaszek.

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