A researcher at the Royal B.C. Museum has discovered a new species of giant wasps that inhabited the earth roughly 53 million years ago.
Dr. Bruce Archibald, along with researchers from Simon Fraser University, Harvard, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum in London, discovered the species as fossils from ancient forests in B.C. and Washington, including McAbee fossil beds near Cache Creek.
The giant horntail wood-wasps, named ypresiosirex orthosemos, were about seven centimetres in length and resembled its modern relatives. They were forest pests, their young bore tunnels through wood to create gardens in which they grow the fungus that they eat.
According to researchers, the wasps thrived in earlier years, although tropical heat increased the average temperature in the forest, making it difficult for them to survive.
Archibald said the discovery is a valuable tool in understanding our natural world.
“By looking into the fossil record, we hope to better understand how ancient forests and the insects that lived in there were affected by differing climates,” he said. “Learning more from our deep past may help us as we experience climate change in our own times.”
Researchers also discovered another similar species of wasps in the McAbee forest. The findings were published in the journal, Canadian Entomologist.