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The Second Nose: Scientists decipher the unique egg-laying strategy of parasitic wasps

Figs and wasps have a give and take relationship where figs need wasps to pollinate while wasps lay their eggs inside the fig fruits. However, not all fig-wasp relationships are this cordial. There are a set of parasitic wasps that cause more harm to the fig plant than good! A new study has uncovered some of the fascinating abilities of such wasps, especially their ability to sense smell. Ovipositors, specialized organs developed to lay eggs in wasps, have been found to act as a ‘nose’ in sniffing out the best position to lay their eggs, say the researchers. These organs can also detect many chemicals, potentially inspiring new kind of sensors, they claim.

A wasp armed with a toothed, saw-like drill

Wasps lay eggs using an egg laying organ called the ovipositor. Some wasps lay eggs inside figs and need to drill through the fig fruit to do so. Researchers from IISc have unearthed the mechanism that these wasps use — they have teeth like projections on the ovipositor, like a saw. And that’s not all, these teeth are coated with zinc. Insights gained from this study may help us to build tools that aid in robot assisted surgery, and novel mechanisms to bore through hard surfaces.