Greta Thunberg Has Tiny New Species of Wingless Beetle Named After Her

Scientists have named a newly identified species of beetle after teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The brown-colored insect, dubbed Nelloptodes gretae is tiny—measuring less than 1 millimeter in length—and has no eyes or wings.

Michael Darby, a researcher from the Natural History Museum in London, who described the new beetle in the journal Entomologist's Monthly Magazine, said he settled on the name as a way to pay tribute to Thunberg—who began taking time off school on Fridays to protest outside Swedish parliament last year.

These solitary strikes sparked a global movement calling for climate action, which now involves millions of people around the world.

"I chose this name as I am immensely impressed with the work of this young campaigner and wanted to acknowledge her outstanding contribution in raising awareness of environmental issues," Darby said in a statement.

Darby found the beetle in the Natural History Museum's Spirit Collection, which contains more than 22 million animal specimens.

Although Darby only recently discovered the beetle in the collections, the specimen was collected in the 1960s by scientist William Block, who was conducting research in Nairobi.

During his investigations, Block had gathered multiple samples of soil and leaf litter, which he eventually donated to the museum in 1978.

"I am delighted that we have published a species name that acknowledges all that Greta and her supporters have done," Andrew Wakeham-Dawson, editor of Entomologist's Monthly Magazine, said in the statement.

N. gretae belongs to the animal family known as Ptiliidae, which consists of around 600 species—all of which are very tiny beetles. In fact, this group includes some of the smallest known insects on Earth.

Scientists have traced the origins of some members of this family—colloquially known as "feathering beetles"—as far back as 125 million years.

The latest finding is yet another incidence of a new species being identified in a museum collection. Last month, for example, scientists announced that they had identified a new species of crocodile after analyzing specimens kept at museums in several countries.

Nelloptodes gretae
The newly described beetle species Nelloptodes gretae. Natural History Museum, London

"There are likely hundreds of exciting new species still to be discovered around the world as well as in the vast collections of the Natural History Museum," Max Barclay from the museum said in the statement.

"The name of this beetle is particularly poignant since it is likely that undiscovered species are being lost all the time, before scientists have even named them, because of biodiversity loss. So it is appropriate to name one of the newest discoveries after someone who has worked so hard to champion the natural world and protect vulnerable species," he said.

The modern, ongoing loss of biodiversity has been described by some scientists as the Earth's sixth mass extinction crisis, with species are disappearing at a worryingly fast rate. A landmark U.N. report recently warned that one million species around the world are at risk of disappearing due to human pressures and climate change.