Between 1964 and 1965, an entomologist called William Brock collected samples of soil from around east Africa. Inside one of these samples, taken in Kenya and stored in the British Natural History Museum until now, was a tiny species of beetle, pale yellow and gold. Measuring just 0.79 millimetres, the beetle has no eyes or wings, with a small pit between where the eyes should have been.
The species has just got a name. Natural History Museum scientific associate Michael Darby, who is quoted on the Museum website as describing himself as a great fan of Greta Thunberg, has described the species and named it Nelloptodes gretae, after the teenage climate activist.
Biological names comprise two words, one for the genus and the second for the species. Traditionally, it is the species name that scientists coin to honour a prominent personality, and sometimes even a friend or a relative.
While the species name gretae derives from Greta, the genus Nelloptodes too is new, the Museum said in a statement announcing the naming of the species.
Darby described not only the new genus and the species he named after Greta Thunberg, but eight other species of beetles, all within the same sample of soil. All the nine species belong to a family called Ptiliidae. Darby has named many species of Ptiliidae beetles earlier.
Beetles of this family are found all over the world, yet they are not particularly well known because of their size — they are so small that even some single-cell animals are larger. Many of them are, in Darby’s words, smaller than a full stop.
Don’t miss from Explained: Doxxing, the street-protest tactic that Hong Kong has cracked down on
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines