New Species of Beetle Named After Climate Activist Greta Thunberg

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, arrives in the US after a 15-day journey crossing the Atlantic in the Malizia II, a zero-carbon yacht, on August 28, 2019 in New York. - "Land!! The lights of Long Island and New York City ahead," she tweeted early Wednesday. She later wrote …

Dr. Michael Darby of the UK’s Natural History Museum has named a newly discovered species of beetle after Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as a testament to her persistence, the Museum revealed Friday.

“I chose this name as I am immensely impressed with the work of this young campaigner and wanted to acknowledge her outstanding contribution in raising awareness of environmental issues,” Dr. Darby said in a press release.

The tiny beetle, which measures less than 1mm long and has no eyes or wings, was found by Dr. Darby while he was studying in the Natural History Museum’s Spirit Collection, which contains over 22 million animal specimens.

The Natural History Museum, the most visited natural history museum in Europe and the top science attraction in the UK, said that the beetle specimen originated in Nairobi, Kenya. It was collected in samples of soil and leaf litter by Dr. William C. Block in the 1960s. Dr. Block’s collection was later donated to the Museum in 1978.

As of Friday, the official Latin name for the beetle, which belongs to the Ptiliidae family of insects, is Nelloptodes gretae, a rough translation of Greta’s name.

The newly described species, named Nelloptodes gretae after Greta Thunberg, is less than a millimetre in length

The newly described species, named Nelloptodes gretae after Greta Thunberg, is less than a millimetre in length (Courtesy Natural History Museum).

The young climate activist rocketed to fame as a result of her protests outside the Swedish parliament, which in August 2018 when Greta was 15. Soon after she began “striking” from school on Fridays, calling on government to take stronger action against global warming.

Museum officials suggest that the new Greta beetle is just one of many new species yet to be discovered.

“There are likely hundreds of exciting new species still to be discovered around the world as well as in the vast collections of the Natural History Museum,” said Dr. Max Barclay, the Museum’s Senior Curator in Charge of Coleoptera — or beetles.

“The name of this beetle is particularly poignant since it is likely that undiscovered species are being lost all the time, before scientists have even named them, because of biodiversity loss — so it is appropriate to name one of the newest discoveries after someone who has worked so hard to champion the natural world and protect vulnerable species,” Barclay said.

The scientific description of the beetle has been published Friday in The Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine.

“I am delighted that we have published a species name that acknowledges all that Greta and her supporters have done,” said Andrew Wakeham-Dawson, editor of the magazine.

According to its website, the Natural History Museum receives some five million visitors each year.


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