About the episode
In 2012, while visiting a Walmart in Arkansas, a researcher at Penn State University’s Insect Identification Lab picked a large insect from the exterior wall of the supermarket. It looked a bit like a dragonfly, but according to the researcher, it had to be an ant-lion. With this label, the winged insect ended up in his personal collection.
Many years later, in 2020, the same researcher gave an online lecture on insect biodiversity from home. Students viewed insects from his collection from their own homes under borrowed microscopes. When it was the turn of the lion ant from Walmart and the researcher began to describe the characteristics of the animal, he suddenly stopped talking.
And then the whole group of students saw why. It wasn’t an ant-lion at all. It was a very rare giant lacewing from the net family. Many of them have already been found in North America, but in the 1950s the species disappeared under mysterious circumstances. And now, suddenly, there was one, under a microscope. An insect that dates back to the Jurassic period, a period of 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 remains available for research. Because there are still a lot of questions. What do we say, for example, that this animal suddenly reappears after half a century?
Read more about research here: Rare Insect Found in Arkansas Walmart Sets All-Time Record and Sparks Mystery.
“Food expert. Unapologetic bacon maven. Beer enthusiast. Pop cultureaholic. General travel scholar. Total internet buff.”