Australia’s forgotten spider hunters –
Systematics and biology of pompilid wasps (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae)
Dep.of Entomology, State Museum of Natural History, Stuttgart, Germany
Friday 26th of October 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)
Spider wasps (Pompilidae) is a distinctive group of wasps of rather homogeneous morphology and biology. Female wasps search for spiders which they paralyse and provide as food for their developing larvae. Pompilids are recognised as one of the most difficult wasp groups in terms of species taxonomy and from the point of view of phylogeny and classification. The Australian fauna is highly diverse but still largely unknown with an estimate of 500-600 species of spider wasps, about 60% of which are still undescribed. The generic level classification of described taxa is extremely chaotic and the absence of identification keys has rendered the Australian fauna largely inaccessible for biological research for more than two centuries. The subfamily Pepsinae comprises the poorest studied Australian genera, many of which were described on the basis of a single specimen. Numerous pepsine genera exhibit a striking level of sexual dimorphism, which complicates sex associations. A generic level revision of the Australian Pompilidae is presented along with information on their biodiversity and biogeography. After this revision, 49 pompilid genera are recognized in four subfamilies, which are diagnosed and included in a comprehensive identification key. Five genera are described as new, in addition to five that are newly recorded and six that are excluded from the Australian fauna. Large amounts of new distributional data and new host records have been collected based on museum collections and recent fieldwork. Among the new host records is the infamous redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti), which was found to be parasitized by a species of the newly revised pompilid genus Agenioideus.
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