A new species of insect may have just been discovered in a Canadian cave that might be as old as the previous ice age.
Hiding in the caves of Vancouver, British Columbia is a tiny white insect that might be from a bygone era. Scientists say that these insects are so old that they may be relatively unchanged since the last ice age over 11,700 years ago.
The discovery was published in the journal Subterranean Biology and describes a species of hexapod (which is a fancy term for a 6-legged insect) that was discovered in a cave that had only recently been uncovered from a sheet of ice. And by recently, we mean ice high up in the mountains of British Columbia that had only now receded due to global climate change.
They’re calling it Haplocampa wagnelli, a species of insects that are more generally called two-pronged bristletails. Similar to earwigs in appearance, members of the genus Haplocampa are very small, have long (relatively speaking) bristly tails, and have biting mouthparts that allow them to feed on smaller isopods, but also on cave fungus and rotting plant material.
From the abstract, "The new proposed species … is rather interesting for its troglomorphic features: antennae with 32 antennomeres; olfactory chemoreceptors, each a multiperforated, folded-spiral structure; and numerous gouge sensilla. In addition, it is one of the northernmost troglomorphic species to have colonized – presumably recently – an area occupied by the Late Wisconsinian North America ice sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum."
The difference between Haplocampa wagnelli and other diplurans is that wagnelli has slightly elongated antennae, longer legs, and a somewhat thicker body. The study also says that wagnelli seems likely to dwell not just in cave habitats but also in soil ones.
Professional cave diver Craig Wagnell co-authored the study along with entomologist Alberto Sendra of the Universidad de Alcalá in Madrid, Spain. The newly identified insect is named after Wagenll, who was instrumental in the bug's discovery.