A new species of damselfly from the Cretaceous period has been named after the iconic naturalist and TV presenter Sir David Attenborough.
The new discovery, described in detail in Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, was made in the Hukawng Valley of Kachin Province in Myanmar. The fossil was found in a piece of mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. The full scientific name for the new species, belonging to a group more commonly known as shadowdamsels, is Mesosticta davidattenboroughi. Researchers decided to name the new species after David Attenborough because of his long-standing appreciation of dragonflies, and to celebrate his recent 90th birthday.
Co-author Professor Edmund A. Jarzembowski said, "Dragonflies in amber are extremely rare and the recent discoveries by my Chinese colleagues are a new window on the past. It is tradition in taxonomy (the naming of a new species) to contact the person concerned. Sir David was delighted because he is not only interested in the story of amber, but also a president of the British Dragonfly Society."
The fossil itself is extremely well preserved as it is encased in yellow transparent amber and includes a complete set of wings. With the aid of photo technology, researchers were able to digitally enhance and build a clear three-dimensional picture of the new species, showing that it differed from previously described fossils, notably in the shorter wing length.
Lead author Daran Zheng from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, commented, "Mesosticta davidattenboroughi is quite unique because we have uncovered a new species and it confirms the previous attribution of Mesosticta to the Platystictidae. It is the first fossil group of modern platystictid damselflies and documents the appearance of Platystictidae as early as mid-Cretaceous."
The discovery of insect remains in amber is not uncommon, however this particular family of damselflies are much less frequently found and their fossil record is poor compared to many other families making the discovery especially unusual. Mesosticta davidattenboroughi joins a long list of animals which have been named after Sir David Attenborough, including a weevil and fossil species of a plesiosaur and a fish.
This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the HKU Seed Funding Program for Basic Research.
NOTE TO JOURNALISTS
When referencing the article: Please include Journal title, author, published by Taylor & Francis and the following statement: * Read the full article online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14772019.2017.1348395
PLEASE NOTE: This link will not be live until 16th August, when it will be free to access
About Taylor & Francis Group
Taylor & Francis Group partners with researchers, scholarly societies, universities and libraries worldwide to bring knowledge to life. As one of the world's leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works our content spans all areas of Humanities, Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Science, and Technology and Medicine.
From our network of offices in Oxford, New York, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Stockholm, New Delhi and Cape Town, Taylor & Francis staff provide local expertise and support to our editors, societies and authors and tailored, efficient customer service to our library colleagues.
Journal of Systematic Palaeontology