The Biological Warfare of Very Small Wasps

strange behaviors

What a home invader looks like to a caterpillar This is how a home invader looks to a caterpillar (Photo: José L. Fernández-Triana)

My latest for Takepart, the website of the movie company Participant Media:

Earlier this year, a study came out describing a new plant species in the Andes that is the sole home of an estimated 40 or 50 kinds of insects. I thought that had a certain “wow” factor. It also seemed like a chance to write about “keystone species”—the ones on which whole ecosystems depend—and the ripple effects when such a species goes extinct.

So I asked for a comment from evolutionary ecologist Dan Janzen at the University of Pennsylvania, and he responded with characteristic pith and vinegar. “You tell me what species on the planet is not an important part of the life cycle of many tens to hundreds of other species,” he demanded. “As for so-called keystone species, that simply…

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