19 August 2008
Insect expert discovers new species on eBay
|Fossil aphid in amber|
Dr Richard Harrington, Vice President of the Royal Entomological Society and Deputy Science Director at the Centre for Bioenergy and Climate Change, Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, acquired the insect, an aphid, for £20. His colleague Dr Colin Denholm initially spotted the item and made the purchase from an eBay member in Lithuania.
The fossilised insect is encased in Baltic amber approximately the size of a Smartie.
After examining the specimen with his team of aphid specialists, Dr Harrington sent the insect to Professor Ole Heie, a world expert on fossil aphids in Copenhagen, for identification. Professor Heie believed the specimen to be an unknown species of the Mindarus genus, and named it Mindarus harringtoni after Dr Harrington.
The aphid is thought to date back to around 35 to 50 million years ago, and from the plant remains found in the amber, it is thought that it originated from a tropical climate.
Aphids are small plant-feeding insects, and around 4,400 species are known. They vary in size from one to 10 millimetres in length and many can cause substantial damage to agriculture, horticulture and forestry.
The aphid is now housed in the Natural History Museum and a full description of the insect has been published in the Royal Entomological Society’s journal, Antenna.
Dr Harrington said: "I wanted the aphid to be named Mindarus ebayi but flippant species names are frowned upon these days! I’m delighted to have a work of nature named after me – even if it is an extinct fossil!"
Related links Richard Harrington on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme
BBC News Online article
The Rothamsted Insect Survey
The Royal Entomological Society
Amy Sutherland or Liz Powell at Cicada Communications on 01423 567111 or 07984 914473 (out of hours) » firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
Founded in 1833 as the Entomological Society of London, the Royal Entomological Society plays a major national and international role in disseminating information about insects and improving communication between entomologists. In 1855 a Royal Charter was granted to the Entomological Society by Queen Victoria and the privilege of adding the word "Royal" to the title was granted by King George V in 1933, the Centenary of the Society's foundation. Many eminent scientists of the past, Darwin and Wallace to mention but two, have been Fellows of the Society. Through the years most internationally recognised entomologists have been and are, numbered among the Fellowship.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.
The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.
For more information see www.bbsrc.ac.uk