A Penn State teacher discovered a rare Jurassic-era insect at a Walmart store in Arkansas.
The insect, identified as Polystoechotes punctata, has excited scientists who believed the species had disappeared from large swathes of North America in the 1950s.
The original finding took place in 2012 for Michael Skvarla, director of Penn State University’s Insect Identification Lab. He spotted a massive bug clinging to the side of a Walmart store in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The Giant lacewings had a wingspan of nearly two inches across.
Skvarla found that he had incorrectly labeled the specimen in his personal collection as an “antlion.” The bug shares similar features to the giant lacewing. He uncovered the error during a Zoom class on biodiversity eight years later.
“I remember it vividly, because I was walking into Walmart to get milk and I saw this huge insect on the side of the building,” said Skvarla.
“I thought it looked interesting, so I put it in my hand and did the rest of my shopping with it between my fingers. I got home, mounted it, and promptly forgot about it for almost a decade,” he recalled.
Last November, Skvarla published his findings of the super-rare Jurassic-era insect in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington.
The species’ reemergence sparked speculation of hidden populations in the Ozark mountains’ remote areas.
The Arkansas Ozark Mountains are a rugged, forested region with rolling hills, deep valleys, and clear streams.