Close-range photography often makes insects look like tiny, weird aliens.
Now, a team of German scientists has decided to make the connection between insects and aliens legit by naming newly discovered parasitic wasp species after the Xenomorphs from the sci-fi horror movie Alien.
In the movie, a baby chestburster crawls out of actor John Hurt‘s torso in an explosion of blood and guts. The surviving movie characters realize to their horror that humans make perfect hosts for aliens to lay their eggs.
A new study, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, shows that in the real world, parasitic wasps have been using similarly creepy tactics for millions of years.
Parasitic wasps make hosts of other insects just like the the Aliens, laying eggs inside or on top of other insects.
As the young wasps grow, they eat the hosts’ bodies from the inside out, and often burst through their hosts’ abdomens, just like the chestbursters in Alien.
For the study, scientists from Germany examined 1,510 fossilized fly pupae in total from the Paleogene period found in France.
Fossil evidence for insect host–parasitoid interactions is considered extremely rare, so ideas about parasite evolution has been considered assumptive, until now.
Using synchrotron X-ray imaging, the scientists discovered four new parasitic wasps hiding inside 55 mineralized fossils of fly larvae dating back 30 million to 40 million-years-old.
‘It’s the first time we definitely have proof of a developing parasitoid wasp inside its host in the fossil record,’ Thomas van de Kamp, an entomologist from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany and lead author, told the New York Times on Tuesday.
The German team, who identified the specimens of the newly discovered wasp species, have officially named two of the species Xenomorphia resurrecta and Xenomorphia handschini.
In the spirit of Aliens, maybe it’s time to nuke these wasps from space.