These Voracious Ancient ‘Alien’ Wasps Would Do Ridley Scott Proud

Much like their sci-fi namesake, these Xenomorphia wasps ate their host from the inside while bursting free.

Fossilized Ancient Parasitic Wasp
By Rene Sylvestersen / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Much like their sci-fi namesake, these Xenomorphia wasps ate their host from the inside while bursting free.

When the appropriately nicknamed baby chestburster ripped free of Kane’s (John Hurt) body in Ridley Scott’s Alien, it showcased a birth cycle that’s similar to some real-life parasitic creatures. Scientists recently discovered four new species of ancient wasps that laid eggs within flies, thereby allowing the wasp female to skip all the physical trauma and risks that accompany pregnancy and childbirth. Instead, the wasp eggs were inserted into fly pupae, where they were incubated until birth. As a final thank you to their unwitting hosts, the wasps then killed the flies by eating their way to freedom.

Per CNET, this vicious behavior has earned two of the four ancient species the honor of being named after a sci-fi classic. Xenomorphia handschini and Xenomorphia resurrecta were found lurking within a few fossilized fly pupae that date back to the Paleogene era. The other newly discovered parasitic wasp species have been named Palaeortona quercyensis and Coptera anka. It’s believed that the flies were consumed, possibly by amber, before the wasps could reenact the famous chest-bursting movie moment. This caused both species to eventually enter a fossilized state.

These ancient wasps are somewhere between 23- and 65-million-years-old, but their preferred birthing method hasn’t gone out of style. LiveScience reports that there’s even a currently existing wasp, Euderus set, that lays eggs inside the bodies of other parasitic wasps, including its own family members. Perhaps it’s not surprising that this particular wasp’s name comes from the Egyptian god Set, who was known for reigning over violence, chaos, and evil.

Another example of this savage birthing style is found within the Cotesia congregatus wasp species, which gains life by destroying its hornworm host. Additionally, there are other parasitic wasps that choose spiders, bugs, caterpillars, ladybugs, beetles, and even maggots for the dubious honor of incubating their eggs.

Wasps aren’t the only creatures to utilize this macabre practice. Horsehair worms are arguably much worse because they turn their hosts into zombie-like versions of themselves. According to Wired, these insidious worms change the host’s brain chemistry, causing it to act in a suicidal manner. This is, of course, to the benefit of the horsehair worms, which drive hosts such as crickets and grasshoppers to the brink of insanity before bursting out of them.

In the spirit of “bursting,” be sure to check out these little creepers (shiver) bursting out of this “zombie praying mantis.”

The four latest known additions to this world of insect savagery aren’t the first to bring comparisons to the Alien series to light. In fact, an Australian wasp earned the name Dolichogenidea xenomorph last year, per LiveScience. These names are fitting not only because of the habits of these wasp species but because H.R. Giger, the late artist behind the Alien Xenomorph design, drew his inspiration from parasitic wasps.