When museum visitors in Berlin were given the chance to vote on a name for a new species of cockroach wasp, they settled on Ampulex dementor because of how the wasp partially paralyzes its prey before eating it.
The museum operators wrote,
The Dementor’s fictional behaviour and effects reminded us of the effect of the stinging behaviour of Ampulex on the behaviour of its cockroach prey.
After being stung by the wasp, specific behaviours of the cockroach are inhibited (e.g., escape behaviour) while others are unaffected (e.g., locomotion).
The wasp grabs the partly paralysed cockroach by one of the antennae and guides it to a suitable oviposition location, the prey following the wasp in a docile manner. This is a unique strategy of behavioural modulation of a prey by a wasp’s sting.
According to the study, allowing the public to vote on new species names proved to be a hit, with the visitors showing great interest in the species as a result.
The researchers wrote,
Upon request, visitors clearly indicated a personal bond to the species to be named and curiosity regarding this unexpected opportunity to participate in the naming process.
Even more, some visitors also pointed out that having been involved in the naming process of the new wasp species had changed their personal perception of insects and this unexplored part of nature in a positive way
Thanks to Cory Faniel for the tip! Do you plan on visiting Berlin to see the Dementor wasp? Let us know your thoughts!