Scientists identified a new minuscule fungus-eating beetle, among the smallest free-living creatures on the planet, and they named the bug after Swedish “climate change” crusader Greta Thunberg.
“I suspect this could very well be the first time a species has been named after Greta,” said Michael Darby, the scientific associate at the UK’s Natural History Museum who named the beetle. “I don’t know of any other beetle named after her, that’s for sure.”
Thunberg is best known for her school climate strike protest to draw attention to changes in the climate she believes will destroy the planet. Last year, the then 15-year-old began skipping school to protest outside of the Swedish parliament in hopes of convincing lawmakers to take action to save the planet, a stunt that’s since spread to similar protests involving millions of students in 150 countries.
“I’m really a great fan of Greta,” Darby said. “She is a great advocate for saving the planet and she is amazing at doing it, so I thought that this was a good opportunity to recognize that.”
Darby was sorting through soil samples in the Museum’s collections that were originally collected in Kenya in the mid-1960s when he made his miraculous discovery.
The Museum reports:
Michael went through these samples using high-powered microscopes to observe and photograph the tiny beetles that were caught up in the substrate. He has been able to describe not only the new species named for Greta but also a new genus and eight other new species of Ptiliidae in the same sample.
Nelloptodes gretae is pale yellow and gold, and measures just 0.79 millimetres. With no eyes or wings, it is distinguishable by a small pit found between where the eyes should go.
‘These beetles are so very small that my wife has described them as being like animated full stops,’ says Michael. ‘But actually many are a whole lot smaller than a full stop.
‘I’d also like to stress that I’ve not named this species after Greta because it is small – it’s just that this is the group that I work on.’
In fact, Michael has named several species of Ptiliidae after prominent people, including one for Sir David Attenborough, meaning that N. gretae is certainly in prestigious company.
Scientists have identified dozens of Ptiliidae bugs, which typically feed on fungal hyphae and spores, in the UK and other countries, but less documented in other areas of the world because of their microscopic size – smaller than some single cell organisms.
The prestigious recognition as a bug species comes about a month after Thunberg took a boat from Europe to the U.S. to lecture world leaders about the looming “mass extinction” from climate change she alleged they’re causing with inaction, according to NPR.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones,” Thunberg said. “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”