Scientists discover world's smallest free-living insect in Colombia

By @Guneet_B on
Smallest Beetle
This is the smallest known free-living insect, Scydosella musawasensis. Dr. Alexey Polilov

The never-ending debate about the identity of the world's smallest insect seems to have ended with the discovery of a species of featherwing beetles in Columbia. The scientists believe that the recently discovered species is the tiniest free-living insect on Earth.

Precise measurement conducted by the scientists revealed that Scydosella musawasensis measures around 0.325mm in length. During the study, the scientists examined as many as 85 members of the minute beetle species and found Scydosella musawasensis to be the tiniest one.

The discovery, made by Dr. Alexey Polilov of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, has recently been published in the journal ZooKeys. According to Polilov, the creature has an elongated oval body and its antennae is split into 10 distinct segments. The beetle has yellowish-brown colouration and is the only representative of the featherwing beetle genus.

What makes the discovery special is the fact that the tiny beetle species lives on its own. That is, it does not depend on a host organism for its survival. These insects inhabit areas with plenty of leaf litter, animal dung, decaying tree logs, fungi and other organic matter.

The researchers were not able to precisely determine the size of the beetle because they were preserved as a specimen for microscopic studies. It was in early 2015 that Polilov and his colleagues captured the specimens from Chicaque National Park in Columbia. The specimens were then studied using digital micrographs and specialised software.

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