Check out this parasitoid!

We are slowly working our way through insect samples from salt marshes around New England and our undergrad Martina found something pretty insane recently.  The following picture is of a planthopper in a Nantucket salt marsh


If you zoooooooooooooooom in you can see a weird little bubble on the abdomen of these little hoppers.  If you zoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom in even further you can kind of see that that bubble has a head.  What the heck is that?!

I had to consult marsh arthropod expert, and all around awesome ecologist, Dr Gina Wimp on this.  Here is what she said:

This is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world – a parasitoid!!!  This is a Dryinid parasitoid (Haplogonatopus).  You are looking at the abdomen of the parasitoid protruding-out of the planthopper.  The parasitoid does not kill the planthopper (usually), but sterilizes it.  These planthoppers should consider themselves lucky, I have seen planthoppers with 3-4 parasitoids lined-up on the abdomen.

The other fun parasitoid that the planthoppers get is in the Strepsiptera (Elenchus).  The female just looks like a dark plate on the abdomen, but you can actually see the face of the male on the side of the planthopper’s abdomen!!  The male is winged, the female is not, and the male mates with her while she is still in the planthopper.”

Thanks Gina for that ID and if you want to hear more from her, check out the #MarshChat from a few months ago!


Marsh Chat with Rebecca Atkins

#MarshChat with Rebecca Atkins (@RL_Atkins on twitter)

This week’s #marshchat is with Rebecca Atkins, a PhD student at the University of Georgia.  Take a look at our chat where we talk about how different sized snails affect the marsh differently.  We also chat about some of the insights Rebecca has gotten from travelling to tons of marshes from Florida to Virginia.  What areas have the biggest snails? What has the smallest? What does that mean for the marsh?!

Rebecca’s work is ongoing but she has published some previous work on snail body size, metabolic demand, and marsh productivity that you can find here:


EDIT: I just realized that I messed up during the MarshChat and didnt have any of the pictures that we were talking about displayed.  So they are displayed here!

Snails of different sizes Littoraria irrorata (large!) Rebecca's marsh site, flooded Birds nest in marsh Littoraria irrorata