Behold a creature whose bedroom play may be straight out of the most mind-warping Brueghel painting. Meet a male Megalara garuda, which belongs to both a newly identified species and genus of Indonesian digger wasp.
A specimen of this wasp had been languishing in Berlin's Museum für Naturkunde since the 1930s, until a recent expedition to the wasp's habitat caused entomologists to realize they had something special on their hands — that is, a giant wasp with a killer jawline.
Megalara garuda — which lives on the terrifically biodiverse Indonesian island of Sulawesi — tends to max out at a length of 3-4 centimeters. It's a hefty insect compared to similar species of wasps, but it's the males' oversized mandibles that have truly captivated researchers.
To procure these newer specimens, the team had to brave intense weather and not-for-the-squeamish fauna, and were eventually forced to leave when they just plumb ran out of food.
This part of Sulawesi gets about 400 inches of rain a year [...] We were told that Sulawesi has a dry and rainy season. But the only difference we could see between the dry and rainy season is that during the dry season, it rains only in the afternoon [...] We saw a colonial spider web that stretched across two acres. The adult spiders were about two inches long.
Because Megalara garuda has never been observed alive, the researchers — who published their findings today in the journal ZooKeys — can only speculate about the usages of the male insects' mandibles. These jaws are unique among digger wasps, which tend to disable their prey with paralyzing stings.
Megalara garuda's heaving mandibles may have defensive capabilities, but researchers are taking a cue from closely related species. Seeing as how the smaller female specimens of Megalara garuda don't have these sickle-shaped mandibles, the researchers believe that the male grasps its mate with these demonic appendages to copulate.
That's right, the male wasp, in all likelihood, hooks its mate in some variety of unholy mouth-hug mid-coitus. Between this and those damn banana slugs and flatworms, it should be abundantly clear by now that the animal kingdom is busy inventing kinks you never knew existed.
Top photos: Lynn S. Kimsey/Michael Ohl. Bottom photo of size comparison between male and female specimens of Megalara garuda: Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC - Davis.