A new wasp was discovered in Thailand. The wasp named after the Dementors, the horrific creatures from the Harry Potter books, turns cockroaches into zombies. The wasp whose official name is Ampulex Dementor was discovered in 2014 in the Greater Mekong Region of Asia.
According to the World Wildlife Fund(WWF) report it was one of 139 new species found. Unfortunately many of the newly revealed species are already threatened by damns, new roads, a desire for wildlife meat, and deforestation due to demand for luxury timber. The WWF report also said that the area of Southeast Asia is a wealth of biodiversity with three new species on average being found a week. Between 1997 and 2014, 2,216 new species were identified and described. Many new species may disappear before they are even discovered though, due to illegal trade in wildlife and unsustainable growth. Along with the Dementor Wasp, nine new fish were found, 23 reptiles, 90 plants, 16 amphibians, and one mammal, a bat with very large fangs were identified in 2014.
The Dementor Wasp which takes its name from the creatures who suck the souls from their victims in the Harry Potter books, injects its venom into the stomach of cockroaches, turning its victim into a zombie like version of its former self. The venom blocks receptors of the neurotrasmitter octopamine, a product closely related to norepinephrine. Octopamine plays a role in causing unprompted movement, thus making the cockroach able to move but without the ability to control its own body. The cockroach is then dragged by its antennae to a safe spot where it is eaten alive.
The black and red colored wasp is believed to live only in Thailand, its coloring is described as attractive, its wings are marked, and it is part of a family of a group of species that mimics ants. Authors wrote in their 2014 report that it has “rather bizarre habitus and probably also behavior.”
The Museum für Naturkunde, a natural history museum in Germany, asked 300 guest to vote in a poll of four choices for a name for the wasp. The winner was Ampulex Dementor. The naming process was directed by Michael Ohl, who was one of five to discover the species, along with Lukas Kirchev, Volker Lohrmann, Stefanie Krause, and Laura Breitkreuz. Ohl conducted the event to bring attention to conservation, and to increase curiosity about nature and fauna, both globally and locally.
Some other discoveries that were on the list were two new orchids found in the famous Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, the orchids were already being traded in the market even though they had yet to be scientifically identified. A stick bug over 21 inches long was found very close to a village in Vietnam. In Myanmar a crocodile newt was discovered. The newt is already in high demand on the international pet market, with two being found in pet stores in Europe.
The long-tooth bat, also called Hypsugo dolichodon, that was first described last year by researchers, uses it long fangs to eat insects with hard shells. It is found in Vietnam, and Laos. Researchers are still not sure what its habitat of choice is. Tamas Gorfol, who help discover the animal says it might live in the forest or it could live in caves.
The Greater Mekong region which contains Cambodia,Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Yunnan a providence of southwestern China is one of the most threatened biodiversity spots in the world, according to the WWF.
The zombie creating wasp, named after the Dementors in the Harry Potter series may sound scary, but fortunately it will not cause a future zombie outbreak. Hopefully the area in which it was found will not be destroyed so that other species that have yet to discovered have a chance to be known before they go extinct.
By Jessica Hamel
Fox: ‘Dementor’ Wasp Turns Cockroaches Into Zombies
The Sun Daily: ‘Dementor’ Wasp, Giant Stick Insects Among New Mekong Finds
The Washington Post: Say Hello to the Dementor Wasp. It Turns Cockroaches Into Zombies
Photo of Cockroach Courtesy of Jean and Fred’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License
Photo of Zombie Survival Guide Courtesy of mr.smashy’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License