I took home an interesting bug I found at Walmart when I was buying milk – 8 years later I discovered its Jurassic-era truth
A RESEARCHER made one of his biggest discoveries at Walmart when he came across a Jurassic-era insect that hadn’t been sighted in North America since the 1950s.
The discovery was made by Michael Skvarla, director of Penn State’s Insect Identification Lab, in 2012. It wasn’t until 2020 that he realized the importance of the mistake.
In a post shared at the university websiteinformed Skvarla that he had found a rare bug called giant lacewing on a wall outside the shop.
He said he found it when he was a student and that years later he was unaware of the specimen’s importance when he was teaching a class and showing the specimen to his students.
“I remember it vividly because I was going to Walmart to get milk and I saw this huge insect on the side of the building,” Skvarla said.
“I thought it looked interesting, so I picked it up and did the rest of my shopping with it between my fingers. I came home, assembled it and immediately forgot about it for almost a decade.”
Then, during a Zoom class during the Covid-19 pandemic, Skvarla found the species he had caught was rarer than expected.
“We observed what Dr. Skvarla under his microscope and he was talking about the traits and then kind of stopped,” said Codey Mathis, one of his students.
“We all realized together that the insect wasn’t what it was called, but a super rare giant lacewing. I still remember the feeling.
“It was so gratifying to know that the excitement is not letting up, the amazement is not lost. Here we made a real discovery in the middle of an online internship.”
Giant lacewing beetles used to be widespread across North America and mysteriously disappeared in the 1950s.
Researchers theorize that the species may have disappeared due to various factors including the influence of urbanization in the country, suppression of wildfires and more.
Skvarla made his discovery in Arkansas, in a town in the Ozark Mountains, a place of great biodiversity and probably one reason the specimen was there.
This place is known for hosting various species of animals and plants.
“This combination makes the region an ideal place for a large, conspicuous insect to hide undetected,” the researchers said.
As for how the insect managed to make its way to the outside of a Walmart, researchers suspect it was likely drawn to the building’s lights and may have traveled a few feet to get to the location.
“A finding like this really underscores that even in an ordinary situation, there is still an enormous body of discoveries to be made about insects,” said Louis Nastasi, a graduate student at Penn State.
https://www.the-sun.com/tech/7514287/bug-walmart-discovered-jurassic-era/ I took home an interesting bug I found at Walmart when I was buying milk – 8 years later I discovered its Jurassic-era truth