University Scientist Stumbles Upon Rare Jurassic-Era Insect Near Walmart Store In US

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A university scientist is speaking out about an insect he encountered at a Walmart store in the United States that he misidentified for several years but recently discovered was a rare specimen from the Jurassic period. According to Penn State University’s press release, Michael Skvarla stumbled upon the mysterious and large insect at an Arkansas Walmart during a routine shopping trip for milk in 2012. The insect’s wingspan was nearly two inches across. Mr Skvarla initially believed that the bug was an antlion, however, upon closer inspection years later, he discovered it was a “super-rare” Jurassic-era giant lacewing. Mr Skvarla, now director of Penn State University’s Insect Identification Lab, recently co-authored a paper about the discovery, made when he showed the bug to students in an online class. He found that the bug hasn’t been seen in eastern North America for 50 years. The university scientist revealed that the wide wingspan of the insect 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 realized 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,” Mr Mathis added. Also Read | What Is ‘Kailasa’? How Nithyananda Established A Fictional CountryAs per the press note, Mr Skvarla and other experts then performed molecular DNA analyses on the insect to confirm it was in fact a Polystoechotes punctata, or giant lacewing. Extensive collection records of the species were analysed, showing giant lacewings had been spotted from Alaska to Panama but hadn’t been seen in the eastern part of the continent for half a century. Mr Skvarla said that it remained a mystery how the insect ended up in Arkansas after it was presumed to have disappeared from the entire region. However, he also suggested that there may be relic populations of this large, Jurassic-era insect yet to be discovered. His specimen could me there is “rare, surviving eastern population of giant lacewings that evaded detection and extinction”. The scientist is now hopeful that his discovery may lead to more. “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 in the press release.