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This Freaky 100-Million-Year-Old Wasp Was Named for David Bowie

One day, you’re relaxing on a Cretaceous tree chillin’ with some dinos. The next day, you’re trapped in amber for 100 million years.
Archaeoteleia astropulvis. Image: Dr. Elijah J Talamas

It's been over a year since pop superstar David Bowie passed away, but his legacy lives on through memorials, fan tributes, and now, Cretaceous wasps trapped in amber.

That's right: A new species of extinct wasp that lived alongside the dinosaurs 100 million years ago has been dubbed Archaeoteleia astropulvis, with the second word being a Latinized version of "Stardust."

In a paper describing the new species, published Wednesday in the open access Journal of Hymenoptera Research, entomologists said the name "commemorates the late David Bowie alter ego, Ziggy Stardust," while also referring "to the ancient source of the atoms that form our planet and its inhabitants."


While this female holotype doesn't have the "snow-white tan" or "cat from Japan" qualities that are laid out in the song "Ziggy Stardust," I think even Bowie would agree that she is adequately freaky.

Archaeoteleia astropulvis trapped in amber. Image: Dr. Elijah J Talamas

The paper also reports the discovery of a second species, Proteroscelio nexus ("nexus" hints at the insect's close connections to the broader Proteroscelio genus of ancient parasitic wasps). Both specimens were sourced from the amber mines of Myanmar, which are packed with these haunting tableaus of the past, suspended within the fossilized resin of trees that are long dead.

Proteroscelio nexus trapped in amber. Image: Dr. Elijah J Talamas

The wasps were collected by Longfeng Li, an entomology student at Capital Normal University in Beijing, who brought them to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, for classification. Now that they are on the phylogenetic books, the specimens have been donated to the Key Lab of Insect Evolution and Environmental Change in Beijing.

Read More: How This 99-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Tail Ended Up in a Burmese Amber Market

You may be asking the obvious Ziggy-inspired question: So where were the spiders? If wasps are getting named after Stardust, shouldn't spiders, with their prominent role in the singer's lyrical repertoire, also have their own Bowie-inspired species?

Don't worry: Science already covered this ground with Heteropoda davidbowie, a hallucinatory-looking huntsman spider identified in 2008. The Parafimbrios lao snake isalso informally known as the "Ziggy Stardust snake" because of its rainbow-patterned head. Archaeoteleia astropulvis is just the latest addition to the growing pantheon of organisms that celebrate David Bowie's life and career.

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