Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Leptofoenus pittfieldae

Leptofoenus pittfieldae is an interesting animal, because it is only actually known from one single specimen. It is an extinct species of wasp that lived in the Miocene Epoch between about 5 and 23 Ma.

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The Dominican Republic is known for its Amber. Many deposits have been found there, several containing specimens, such as our single L. pittfieldae. It is a male wasp, about half an inch long, and was discovered in 2008. It was determined to be a new species due to markings, wing shape, and antennae structure, among other things. It was studied at the University of Kansas natural History Museum by Dr. Michael S. Engel. Its species name, pittfieldae, comes from the name of the niece of the specimens donor.

L. pittfieldae  is the only member of its genus found anywhere in the fossil record, though their are five living species. All of those species are uncommon in the West Indies, which may point to why only one example of L. pittfieldae has ever been found; it was uncommon in that area as well.

I chose this animal today because it just goes to show that there are things out there that we may have never known about. This particular wasp was only discovered two years ago and is known only from one tiny specimen. How many other fascinating creatures of the past are still undiscovered?

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