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Max-Planck doctoral student discovers 'living fossils'

For the first time in 87 years scientists have found insects which cannot be allocated to any known insect order. During an international entomologist group expedition from Germany, England, South Africa, Namibia and the USA to the Brandberg mountain in Namibia, the predatory animals were discovered: they appear to be something like a mixture between a stick insect and a preying mantis and have been given the provisional name "Gladiator". Prior to this, Oliver Zompro, a member of the expedition and doctoral Student at the Max-Planck-Institute for Limnology in Pln, discovered this life form in a 45-million-year-old piece of amber and in not yet classified pieces of amber from various European museums. The new insect order will be presented in the 18th April 2002 edition of Science. According to entomologists such as Piotr Naskrecki, director of the "Invertebrate Diversity Initiative" in the species protection organisation, "Conservation International", this discovery is akin to "finding a mammoth or a sabre-toothed tiger today". This new order, christened Mantophasmatodea, brings the number of insect orders known throughout the world to 31.

Insects, (Latin insectum, literally "segmented animal"), with over 1.2 million known species, represent over 80 % of all living animals on earth. Every year numerous new species are found and categorised. But the last time a new insect order was discovered was in 1915, 87 years ago.

The Discovery

Oliver Zompro, biologist and doctoral Student in the Tropical Ecology Working Group at the Max-Planck-Institute for Limnology in Pln, (supervisor Prof. Dr. Joachim Adis), discovered several animals which could not be allocated to any known insect order, as well as a new family of stick insect (Archipseudophasmatidae) when examining a 45-million-year-old piece of Baltic amber last year. The specimens came from the amber collection of the Geological-Palaeontological Institute of the
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Contact: Prof. Dr. Joachim Adis
adis@mpil-ploen.mpg.de
49-45-22-763-262
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
17-Apr-2002


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