This week, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported that 139 new species were discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year, including a species of wasp that can drag a cockroach to its death.
Most of the new species announced are plants, but they also include reptiles, fish, amphibians, and exactly one mammal—a bat called the Hypsugo Dolichodon, a pipistrelle distinguished by long, scary fangs. It looks like this:
There's also a frog that changes color and the second-longest insect in the world. But the species making headlines is a wasp named after fictional, soul-sucking prison guards known in the Harry Potter universe as Dementors.
WWF describes the wasp as “steal[ing] its prey’s free will with single sting before eating it alive," and continues:
[Ampulex] dementor hunts cockroaches, injecting a venom into the mass of neurons on its prey’s belly that turns the roach into a passive zombie… the cockroach is still capable of movement, but is unable to direct its own body. Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it.
Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it.
This is what that looks like:
Gif via YouTube.
Though the species is new, this group of wasps is not. Ampulex wasps are part of the Ampulicidae wasp species, known as cockroach wasps for their typical prey. This wasp, however, was named after Dementors as part of a group of researchers’ efforts to bring the public into the process of naming new species. This wasp, the researchers wrote in their paper, published last year in PLOS ONE, served as a test case.
The researchers, led by Michael Ohl, invited 300 museum visitors to choose from four possible names for the new species, and explained how each was connected to the wasp. Dementor—“magical beings, which can consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims as an empty but functional body without personality and emotions"—reigned supreme.
We can't wait until more vampire bat species are discovered.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.