At first sight, it looked something like a ‘cross between a winged termite and a bark-louse’. The specimen belongs to the rare order Zoraptera, not previously described as a fossil.
The description of this insect poses special problems, as the whole order consists of only about 20 known species, all of which are very similar. They are recorded from very distantly spaced localities in the warmer parts of both the New and the Old World. Their habit of retiring under decomposing wood and their small size may be partly responsible for their apparent rarity.
The individuals within the colonies exhibit polymorphism. Thus there are adults with functional wings and fully developed eyes, some adults with their wings shed, as in termites, and forms totally wingless and without eyes. To complicate matters further, some of the illustrations in the literature are of poor quality.
A drawing of the fossil in a reset posture reveals a winged male of the originally described genus Zorotypus.1 The body length is almost exactly two millimetres. On the basis of its body proportions and the distribution of bristles, it is indistinguishable from several now-living species of Zorotypus. In allusion to this fact, the name Zorotypus confirmans n.sp. (new species) is given because the fossil confirms the contention of this author that all living things make their first appearance in the geological record as separate and finished organisms. The described specimen was given to the writer and is deposited in his private collection. With this new fossil, the record of the living genus Zorotypus has been pushed back into the ‘Tertiary’. However, Zorotypus confirmans n.sp. contributes nothing to the supposed evolutionary origin of the order as such. The message of even the most insignificant creature is stasis—staying the same.
- F. Silvestri, ‘Descrizione di un nuovo ordine di insets’, Zoraptera, Boll. lab. Zool. Portici., 1913, Vol. 7, pp. 192–209.
(Based on a paper given by Dr Scheven to the Second International Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh, USA, August 1990.)