Wasps named after Hobbit characters

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 09:00 10/12/2013

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You know you have made it when scientists start naming newly discovered insects after your book characters.

Kiwi director Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug by JRR Tolkien hits New Zealand screens this week.

The film's fan-base appears to have extended to a scientist studying wasps at Landcare Research in Auckland and his research colleagues.

Auckland-based Dr Darren Ward and his fellow researchers have named newly discovered species after characters in Tolkien's books.

The names appeared in Zootaxa this year - a journal for zoological taxonomists. Ward said the newly discovered wasps were small, short and stout - just like Hobbits.

S. bilboi, S. frodoi, S. meriadoci, S. peregrini, S. samwisei and S. tolkieni were named after characters Bilbo, Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam and Tolkien himself.

The new genus, or group of wasps, has been named Shireplitis, which refers to The Shire - a fictional region inhabited exclusively by Hobbits.

The wasps are only found in New Zealand, but they are similar to a genus of parasitoid wasps in Europe, North America and South East Asia. Ward said this could be due to the fact that both faced similar ecological conditions when looking for prey.

"This has made them look alike despite the fact they are not closely related," he said.

The research is part of a larger project looking at the identification of wasps in New Zealand.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins on a quest to reclaim a lost kingdom.

The film premiered in the United States at the start of this month and will be in New Zealand cinemas from Thursday.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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