A research team led by paleontologist Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University classified six new species of dragonflies by analyzing several fossil remains found at the site of McAbee, British Columbia, and Republic, a city north of Washington. The remains of all six specimens analyzed lived about 50 million years ago, just over 15 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The researchers identified eight species, but only six of them were intact enough and offered sufficient information for classification. The scientists therefore classified six new species of dragonfly: Antiquiala snyderae, Idemlinea versatilis, Ypshna brownleei, Ypshna latipennata, Eoshna thompsonensis and Auroradraco eos.
As the researchers explain, these dragonflies belong to modern families, that is, families containing species not too different from those they have classified. According to Archibald himself, these dragonflies would not appear at all out of place if they were sighted in a pond today.
“This is rather intriguing,” the researcher reports, “because many of the closely related bridesmaids (common name of the zygoptera suborder) that we are analyzing in our next project do not seem so modern at all. We do not know why these two groups have such different evolutionary trajectories.”
One of the species that classified the researchers through this study, which appeared in The Canadian Entomologist, seems very closely related to another fossil species from the same period from Denmark. According to Archibald himself, this confirms that North America and Europe were pieces of land connected through the region of present-day Greenland at a time when milder climates dominated, even in the Arctic itself. A period during which, probably, one could have walked from Kamloops, a city in western Canada, to Copenhagen without getting one’s feet wet crossing areas mostly made of forests, as the researcher explains.
The study is also important because dragonfly fossils in this region are relatively rare. In fact, in sites, the insects have fossilized after falling into lakes or puddles of water, sinking on the muddy bottom and remaining trapped here. Dragonflies, however, were easier to float on the surface of the water than other insects before sinking thanks to their large wings, which meant that many of them were able to free themselves and not many became fossils.