"When I first saw one of these ant-filled chambers, I thought immediately of the ancient Great Wall of China. Just like the Great Wall protected the Chinese Empire against attacks from raiding nomad tribes, the ant wall protects the offspring of this newly described wasp species from enemies," recounts Staab. Researchers from the Museum of Natural History Berlin and from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing were also part of the discovery team.
The scientists conducted experiments demonstrating that the ant wall is a very effective means of protecting the nest. The offspring of the bone-house wasp are attacked far less frequently than those of other wasps from the same ecosystem. The researchers assume that the unique ant wall gives the nest a smell similar to the nest of a well-fortified ant species, thus scaring off potential enemies. The precise defense mechanism is still unclear and subject of ongoing research. "The discovery of a new species raises new questions. We want to understand why biodiversity is important for a functioning ecosystem," says Prof. Klein. The research cooperation 'Biodiversity-Ecosystem Functioning (BEF) China' conducting this project is funded by the German Research Foundation DFG.
(© University of Freiburg, AcademiaNet)