May 23, 2024

New, extinct wasp species named after David Bowie’s alter ego

TAP | Updated: June 25, 2017

Beijing, Jun 25: Scientists have discovered an 100 million years old extinct wasp species and named it after the English musician David Bowie’s alter ego - Ziggy Stardust. 
Researchers from Capital Normal University in China found two unidentified wasp specimens that were exceptionally well- preserved in Burmese amber.
An analysis of the specimens revealed that both represent species new to science. One of the wasps showed such amazing similarities to a modern group of wasps that it was placed in a currently existing genus, Archaeoteleia which has long been considered as an ancient lineage. 
However, Archaeoteleia has changed since the times when the ancient wasp got stuck on fresh tree resin, researchers said. 
The team notes that “a novice might not recognise the characters that unite the fossil with extant species.” For instance, the modern wasp species of the genus show visibly longer antennal segments and a different number of teeth on the mandible when compared to the fossil. 
In turn, the description of the new extinct species enhances the knowledge about living species by highlighting anatomical structures shared by all species within the genus. 
They named the fossil Archaeoteleia astropulvis. The species name, astropulvis, translates from Latin to ‘star dust’. 
The name to refer to both “the ancient source of the atoms that form our planet and its inhabitants,” as well as to commemorate the late David Bowie’s alter ego - Ziggy Stardust, researchers said. 
The second new species belongs to a genus (Proteroscelio) known exclusively from Cretaceous fossils. Likewise, it is a tiny insect, measuring less than 2millimetre in length, researchers said. 
It also plays an important role in taxonomy by expanding the anatomical diversity known from this extinct genus. 
“The discovery, especially the Star dust wasp and its placement in an extant genus, where it is the only fossil species, ‘exemplifies the importance of understanding the extant fauna of a taxon to interpret fossils’,” researchers including Longfeng Li from China’s Capitol Normal University said. 
“Such union of fossil and extant morphologies is especially illuminating and requires examination of both kinds of specimens,” they add. 
The study was published in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research. PTI