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"The Wasp With a Metal-Reinforced Needle on Its Behind" Topic

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269 hits since 8 Jan 2016
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Jan 2016 10:31 p.m. PST

"Few trees in recorded history have been as useful as the fig. Its leaves covered Adam and Eve's naughty bits, for example, and the Buddha supposedly found enlightenment under one. But in India, the cluster fig tree is responsible for something far more fascinating than spiritual journeys and what must be wildly uncomfortable undies.

This tree's figs play host to a battle between two remarkable insects: a harmless pollinator wasp and its enemy, a parasitic wasp with a metal-reinforced, serrated drill for a bum. The ultra-strong drill is thinner than a human hair, yet its owner can somehow pierce through the tough hide of an unripe fig to deposit its eggs inside—seriously ruining the day of the pollinator wasp's own kids that are also (surprise!) hiding within. It's like a shaolin monk throwing a needle through glass and then babies come out of the needle and OK maybe it's not entirely like that.

A fig tree's flowers are actually encased in the figs, as opposed to something like a highfalutin orchid's hey-look-what-I-can-do blooms. This presents the tree with a reproductive problem: It can't rely on the wind or a variety of insects to spread its pollen around, so instead the cluster fig enlists its own species of pollinator wasp hyper-specialized for the job…"


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