The Little Wasp That Could

Science  15 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5963, pp. 260-262
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5963.260

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Parasitoid wasps play a crucial role in natural ecosystems and in agriculture. They destroy the eggs, larvae, or cocoons of countless species of insects and arthropods, sometimes with hugely beneficial effects: The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that parasitic wasps save the United States at least $20 billion annually by controlling invasive species. The wasps' unusual genetic makeup has even made one a lab favorite. Entomologists are fascinated by the wasps' sometimes bizarre life histories, and ecologists have recently come to recognize their astonishing diversity. Now, their scientific value is about to increase: On page 343 of this week's issue of Science, a 157-person consortium presents the genome sequence of three parasitoid wasps, members of the genus Nasonia, which attack flies. The sequence solidifies Nasonia's standing as a model organism.