The researchers named the new specimen Caradiophyodus saradae — using the Greek words “kara,” meaning “head,” and diaphysodus, meaning “cleft.” The name also pays homage to scientist Sarada Krishnan, OSU explained.
The newly discovered species was found fossilized in 100-million-year-old Burmese amber, where the researchers noticed the insect’s “mysterious, bulbous structure at the end of each antenna.”
Researchers George Poinar Jr. — who has a courtesy appointment at OSU — and independent researcher Fernando Vega published their findings in the Life journal. While scientists have some ideas about the “cloudlike” structure on its antennae, they don’t know for sure what they were used for.
“We could find no fossil or extant insect with such antennal structures,” Poinar said. “We wondered how it could still fly with that weight.”
“They could be tiny plant seeds, plant secretions or eggs from a host the wasp was parasitizing,” Poinar suggested. “There is a good possibility the micro-wasp was parasitizing scale insects since there is a male scale insect embedded in the same piece of amber.”
Officials define micro-wasps as being less than two millimeters long and say there are thousands of species of these parasitic insects.
According to Poinar, this micro-wasp was 1.3 millimeters long and says the cleft on its head and the wing style differentiate it from other species — noting “the unique, miniature cloudlike structures stuck to the antennae must have certainly been an annoyance to this tiny parasite.”
He added, “whatever they are, discovering these is one of the things that makes our work so interesting, and challenging: finding dominant, unique features on extinct organisms.”