This parasite chews through its zombie host's head to freedom
Nature is filled with battles for survival, but one wasp species has devised a rather novel – and disturbing – way to give its larvae a leg up in life.
It preys on the young of another freeloading variety of wasp.
This is how the parasite versus parasite faceoff plays out.
First, the crypt gall wasp (Bassettia pallida) deposits its eggs onto the stems of sand live oak trees, resulting in the formation of a hole.
That's where the second predator, the crypt keeper wasp (Euderus set), comes in.
In a way that is not yet fully understood, its young end up inside the developing crypt gall wasps and urge them to gnaw their way out of their incubation pods long before they're ready.
Typically, the immature crypt gall wasps are not able to fully break free and often end up getting their heads stuck in the opening.
Once their hosts have died, the little crypt keepers chew through the deceased wasps' heads and fly out into the world.
The Rice University-led research team that discovered the chilling behavior believes the crypt keepers do this to compensate for their poor wood-chewing abilities, a skill the galls possess in spades.