Scientist 'discovers' rare Jurassic-era insect at a Walmart store in US: Report
Michael Skvarla encountered the unusual bug in 2012 during his routine shopping at an Arkansas Walmart, according to a press release from Penn State University.
A scientist has claimed having encountered an unusual insect at a Walmart store in Arkansas in the United States that he misidentified for a number of years before discovering that it was a rare specimen from the Jurassic period.
Michael Skvarla encountered the unusual bug in 2012 during his routine shopping at an Arkansas Walmart, according to a press release from Penn State University. The bug's wingspan was over two inches across. At first, he thought the insect was an antlion, however, years later, Skvarla realised the bug was a "super-rare" enormous lacewing from the Jurassic era.
The discovery was made when Skvarla displayed the beetle to pupils in an online lecture. He claimed that the insect hasn't been spotted in eastern North America in 50 years. Skvarla, now the director of Penn State University's Insect Identification Lab, revealed that the insect's large wingspan was the clue that led him and his students to spot what they had found.
"We were watching what Dr. Skvarla saw under his microscope and he's talking about the features and then just kinda stops," Codey Mathis, a doctoral candidate in entomology at Penn State, said.
"We all realised together that the insect was not what it was labeled and was in fact a super-rare giant lacewing. I still remember the feeling. It was so gratifying to know that the excitement doesn't dim, the wonder isn't lost. Here we were making a true discovery in the middle of an online lab course," Mathis added.
According to the press release, Skvarla and other scientists later performed a molecular DNA analysis on the giant bug to determine that it was a Polystoechotes punctata, or giant lacewing.
Giant lacewings have been spotted from Alaska to Panama but hadn't been seen in the eastern region of the continent in the 50 years, an extensive collection records of the species revealed.
It is still a mystery how the insect landed up in Arkansas after it was presumed to have vanished from the region. Skvarla also added that there may be relic populations of this specimen, which are yet to be discovered. His discovery highlighted the fact that there is a "rare, surviving eastern population of giant lacewings that evaded detection and extinction".
The scientist is now hopeful that his discovery may lead to the discovery of other things. "A finding like this really highlights that even in a run-of-the-mill situation, there are still a tremendous number of discoveries to make about insects," he said.