Dr. Darren Ward and his colleagues study wasps at Landcare Research, Auckland, New Zealand, which houses the largest collection of New Zealand insects in the world. They are also fans of Tolkien’s’ Hobbit and Lord of the Rings stories.
So it was only natural for these kiwi scientists to name a new genus of parasitoid wasps after the characters from Tolkien’s epic stories, as well as honor their fellow-kiwi director who brought these stories to the big screen.
Dr. Ward described the wasps as “small, short, and stout – just like Hobbits.” Named after Bilbo, Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam and their creator, Tolkien, the new species names are:
The “S” in their names refer to the new genus that they form, also based on a Tolkien name, Shireplitis after the Shire where the Hobbits normally live. All six species can be found in the mountain ranges of New Zealand’s South Island. They are somewhat similar to a species of wasp called Paroplitis which inhabit other areas of the world (Europe, North America, South East Asia).
Dr. Ward adds, in an article for Landcare Research, “The Hobbit Inspires Scientists”, “…this particular group of parasitoid wasps are very important for horticulture and agriculture because they help control pest caterpillars on fruit trees and vegetable crops. Consequently they help reduce/eliminate chemical sprays being used on crops but also increase yields & productivity.” (Photo to the right, closeup of S. frodoi.)
According to Dr. Ward’s colleague, Jose Fernandez-Triana, in a post dated October 24, 2013 on the cncbraconidae blog, “ Darren and I still have 80-100 new species of microgastrine wasps from New Zealand to describe, which we hope to do within the next few years … We will likely name some species in more conventional ways. But we will certainly have plenty of room to link more names of the Tolkien universe with the scientific universe!”
In a lovely twist, he added, “Next time you watch one of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings movies, when you look at the beautiful scenery shown as background, think that those mountains hold much more than elf or orcs … they are harbouring an amazing diversity of life, including our new friends, the Shireplitis parasitoid wasps!”
I love scientists! LOL!!
Til the next time!