Wasp found in 100 million-year-old amber has Dracula-like mouth parts

Hundred-million year old wasp that’s been called Dracula because its long sharp teeth resemble the vampire’s is found trapped in amber

  • The wasps have complex mouth pieces that led to its Dracula inspired name 
  • These include a noticeably long jaw, sharp teeth and sets of flaps on either side 
  • They have fewer antennae segments and  a smaller number veins in their wings 
  • Scientists say these show evolutionary trends towards a reduction in both traits 

Dracula may have a rival for the creepiest creature to feature fangs after a tiny wasp with long sharp teeth that lived lived millions of years ago was discovered.

The new subfamily of wasps has been named Supraserphites draculi after the blood-sucking character from Bram Stoker’s novel made famous for his bite.

The fossil of the wasp – found trapped in amber – has other features adapted for devouring its prey, including extra flap-like features at either side of its mouth.

Scientists found that the ancient insect was also unique because of the number of segments in its antennae and veins in its wings.  

Dracula may have a rival for the creepiest creature to feature fangs after a tiny wasp with long sharp teeth that lived lived millions of years ago was discovered.  The fossil of the wasp – found trapped in amber (pictured) – has other features adapted for devouring its prey 

Researchers from the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow and the Natural History Museum in London are behind the discovery.

The rock from which the fossil was extracted was dated to the Early Cretaceous era that began 145 million years ago and ended around 100 million years ago.

It was extracted from mines located in the the Hukawng Valley of Kachin Province in Myanmar, and is described as having two or three ‘long acute teeth’ as well as flat and long jawbones. 

They also have a unique number of segments in their antennae, thought to be an evolutionary feature belonging to the serphitoid family of wasps which helped scientists decide it deserved to be a standalone wasp subfamily.

Experts categorised the wasp as the third subfamily in the Supra-serphitinae family of wasps.

Describing the insect as having extensive mouth features, the scientists identified flaps known as ‘maxillary palpi’ and ‘labial palpi’ on the side of the main responsible for touch and taste. 

They identified the wasp as having 10 segments in its antennae known as flagella, which differs to other serphitinae family wasps and helped scientists place the wasp in a new subfamily. 

The researchers described the insect (right) as having both two features near its mouth known as ‘maxillary palpi’ (shown as pmx on the left) and ‘labial palpi’ (shown as plb on the left) which it describes as being long as the main mouthpiece.

The fossil has a unique set of complex features including flaps at either side thought of its mouth (bottom left) , and a reduced number of antennae compared to other members of its family (bottom right) as well

It number is also evidence for an evolutionary trend towards fewer segments in its antennae, or flagella, that eventually reduced to only six in other species. 

They wrote in the paper: ‘[The current fossil] makes more clear a general trend toward reduction of the number of flagellomeres and of the wing venation in serphitid evolution, supports a general trend toward reduction of the number of flagellomeres and of the wing venation in serphitid evolution, reaching its summit in 6-segmented flagellum’. 

WHO WAS DRACULA?

Actor Christopher Lee in ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’

Count Dracula is a fictitious vampire who survives by drinking human blood, made famous by Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, published in 1897.

The character lives in a castle in Transylvania and is known in pop culture for his sharp fictional fangs used to pierce the necks of his victims. 

In Bram Stoker’s novel, an young English lawyer travels to meet Count Dracula who is a client, in order to finalise a property transaction.  

The lawyer discovers his secret and Dracula tries unsuccessfully to attack and kill him. 

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