Mantophasmatodea, a predatory animal which best resembles a mix between a stick insect and a preying mantis, was originally found by Oliver Zompro, a doctoral student at the Max-Planck Institute for Limnology in Ploen, Germany in a 45-million year old piece of Baltic amber. Subsequently, the existence of a living population of these insects was discovered on the Brandberg Mountain in western Namibia by a team of scientists from the National Museum of Namibia in Windhoek. Living individuals were confirmed on a recently completed rediscovery expedition, funded by Conservation International.
The new discovery brings the total number of insect orders to 31.
This discovery is comparable to finding a living mastodon or saber-tooth tiger, said Piotr Naskrecki, Director of Conservation Internationals new Invertebrate Diversity Initiative, who attended the rediscovery mission and photographed the new order. It tells us that there are places on Earth that act as protective pockets, preserving tiny glimpses of what life was like millions of years ago.
The new insect order may have lived in Brandbergs unique habitat for millions of years with no interaction with other species. Brandberg is a 120 million year old massif, isolated from other mountains by hundreds of miles of barren sand.
This discovery, the first of its kind in 87 years, is naturally thrilling for scientists, but is also significant for conservationists. says Naskrecki. These creatures are some of the last witnesses of the time when Africa and America were part of the same landmass.
Invertebrates are often overlooked as conservation priorities, since they are not widely regarded as charismatic as species
Contact: Brad Phillips