See some images from Ari’s visit to Michael Strand’s lab at the University of Georgia.
Images courtesy of Ari Daniel Shapiro
The viruses that live in the ovaries of parasitic wasps are called ichnoviruses, named for the
ichneumonid wasps with whom they have a symbiotic relationship. You can see some images of this diverse insect group here.
These tiny “gallflies” are really diminutive wasps that parasitize plants instead of insects. The female wasp lays her egg in a twig or plant stem, and the plant forms a “gall” around the developing wasp larvae. Scientists aren’t sure exactly what triggers the gall to form, but it may be a virus living in the gall wasp.
While caterpillars are a favorite food, some wasps parasitize other insects and spiders. A wasp called the
tarantula hawk paralyzes a tarantula, drags it back to her burrow, and lays a single egg on the doomed spider’s abdomen.
It’s not only wasps and bacteria that have incorporated virus genes into their genetic makeup. We humans have viral DNA, too. You can read about
one discovery of viral genes in human DNA on Carl Zimmer’s Loom blog. Participate
Become a ZomBee hunter.
Participate in Project ZomBee Watch, which is studying a fly that parasitizes honey bees.
Have you photographed a parasitized caterpillar or a wasp gall? Share the image with EOL via the
EOL Flickr Group.