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Jurassic-Era Insect Found in Walmart


A giant lacewing found at a Walmart in Arkansas is the first specimen of its kind to be found in North America in over fifty years. 


While teaching an online class via Zoom in the fall of 2020, Professor Michael Skvarla showed his students his private insect collection to show them how to compare insect traits. 


He pulled out a specimen he had found at a Fayetteville, Arkansas Walmart and asked the students to examine the characteristics of the insect. 


Skvarla originally believed that the insect was an antlion, but upon closer inspection, he and his students observed that the insect was too large. “It didn’t have clubbed antennae like it should. It didn’t have lots of cross-veins in the wing like it should,” Dr. Skvarla recalled in an interview.


When Dr. Skvarla and his students compared the features of the insect, they concluded over Zoom that it was another species that was thought to be extinct in eastern North America. 


The Polystoechotes punctata, or giant lacewing, is a large bug from the Jurassic era that was widespread in North America until the 1950s. 


The insect at Walmart is the first recorded lacewing found in North America for seven decades, and also the first lacewing found in Arkansas


Dr. Skvarla’s research speculated that the lacewing could have disappeared due to light pollution, fire smoke, and invasive species in their ecosystem. 


Multiple expeditions to the Fayetteville store and the surrounding area have not yielded any more lacewings. 


Although the discovery raises more questions than it answers, there have been precedents for rediscoveries of giant lacewings. Similar species have been rediscovered in Chile in 1924 and Guatemala in 2020. 


Even in areas where populations of giant lacewings remain, it is possible to go for years without a sighting. “It’s not unprecedented, but within the narrative of them being gone from the East," Dr. Skvarla said, “it’s the wonder of discovery.”

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Tags: #zoom #lacewing #jurassic


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