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Newly discovered species of wasp named after Doctor Who’s Daleks

28 Dec 2023 3 minute read
Photo by Rooners72TP is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Fourteen newly discovered species of wasps have been named after the villainous Daleks from Doctor Who to mark the 60th anniversary of the popular sci-fi series.

The insects, which bear the genus “Dalek”, are among the 619 new wasp species described this year by London’s Natural History Museum (NHM).

An alien warrior race of mutants, the Daleks are the formidable bad guys in BBC’s long-running TV show.

Terry Nation

One particular species of wasp from Costa Rica called Dalek nationi also honours Terry Nation, the Welsh screenwriter and novelist who created the mutant race that terrified children for the past six decades.

Dr John Noyes, scientific associate at the NHM, said: “I thought it was a good name for a genus and a bit of fun having been a big fan of Doctor Who in my early years.”

A total of 815 new species were described by NHM scientists in 2023, including a 407-million-year-old parasitic fungus named after children’s author Beatrix Potter.

Potteromyces asteroxylicola was discovered infecting the roots of ancient plants and is thought to be the earliest disease-causing fungus ever discovered.

The researchers said they wanted to honour Potter’s reputation as a dedicated mycologist – someone who studies and works with fungi.

Dr Christine Strullu-Derrien, scientific associate at the NHM, who helped identify the new Potter fungus, said: “Naming this important species after Beatrix Potter seems a fitting tribute to her remarkable work and commitment to piecing together the secrets of fungi.”

Fossil

Highlights also include fossil remains of a new dinosaur species found on the Isle of Wight, which was named Vectipelta barretti after NHM Professor Paul Barrett who worked there for two decades.

It is first the dinosaur discovered on the island for 142 years.

Other notable discoveries also include fossil remains of a giant penguin called Kumimanu fordycei – believed to be the largest penguin that ever lived – and nine new species of bristle worms including two bone-eating worms.

The researchers also report new species being discovered in “unremarkable” urban environments, including a stick insect called Micropodacanthus tweedae that was found on the side of a bin in Australia, and a moth that was located in Ealing, west London, called Tachystola mulliganae, which turned out be a new species native to Western Australia.

T. mulliganae is named after Barbara Mulligan, a lifelong moth enthusiast who discovered the species.

Mark Sterling, a scientific associate at NHM, described the finding as “real coup for citizen science”.

The new species descriptions contributed to the 722 new research papers released by the NHM over the past 12 months.


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