The mystery of the bug that was on Walmart in Arkansas

about the episode

In 2012, while visiting a Walmart store in Arkansas, a researcher from the Insect Identification Laboratory at Penn State pulled a large insect from the outside wall of the supermarket. It looked a bit like a dragonfly, but according to the researcher it should have been an ant lion. With this designation, the winged insect ended up in his personal collection.

Several years later, in 2020, the same researcher gave an online lecture on insect biodiversity from home. Students viewed insects from his collection from their homes under borrowed microscopes. When it was Walmart’s ant lion’s turn and the researcher began describing the animal’s characteristics, he suddenly stopped talking.

Then the entire group of students saw why. It wasn’t an ant lion at all. It was an extremely rare giant tapestry from the Grid family. Several of them were found in North America, but in the 1950s the species mysteriously disappeared. And suddenly one appeared under the microscope. An insect that dates back to the Jurassic period, a period in geology that began about 200 million years ago.

It has become an unforgettable lesson for both the students and the researcher. The animal was carefully described and taken to a museum, where it is still available for research. Because there are still many questions. What does it say, for example, that this animal suddenly reappears after half a century?

Read more about the search here: A rare insect found in an Arkansas Wal-Mart sets a historic record, sparking a mystery.

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