British Columbia

First dragonfly fossils from B.C. receive scientific names

These dragonflies flitted about 50 million years ago around the region we now call Kamloops, B.C.

The prehistoric dragonfly fossils, around 50 million years old, were discovered near Kamloops

Six new dragonfly species were identified and named from a fossil site near Kamloops, B.C. (Simon Fraser University)

Rare fossilized dragonflies, which flitted about the area we now know as Kamloops, have been given scientific names — a first for British Columbia.

Bruce Archibald, a paleontologist with Simon Fraser University, along with dragonfly expert Robert Cannings with the Royal B.C. Museum, examined nine dragonfly fossils from a fossil site located 75 kilometres west of Kamloops.

The fossil beds, called the McAbee fossil site, reveal the record from an era between 49 and 53 million years ago. 

"This time was not that many millions of years after the extinction of the dinosaurs," Archibald said on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. 

"We're seeing the beginnings of our modern era. We see life as we know it, in the world as we know it, emerging."

Simon Fraser University paleontologist Bruce Archibald and his team found the fossils near Cache Creek, B.C. (Simon Fraser University)

Dragonfly fossils are fairly rare, Archibald said. He says because of their broad, large wings, they would probably float on the surface of the water much longer before falling through the water column and into the mud which would then eventually turn to stone and fossilize.

"The longer something floats in the surface more chance it has of being eaten or decaying," he said. "So these dragonflies would have more rarely made it into the fossil record."

The fossils represent eight previously unknown species. Six of them were given scientific names, as they were well-preserved enough to identify their origins. They are as follows:

  •  Antiquiala snyderae
  •  Idemlinea versatilis
  • Ypshna brownlee
  • Ypshna latipennata
  • Eoshna thompsonensis
  • Auroradraco eos

The findings were published in The Canadian Entomologist, a scientific journal.

"It took quite a while," Archibald said.

"You have to figure out who these are related to by studying the pattern of ...[the] veins on their wings. That's sort of the Rosetta Stone that that allows us to interpret the relationships."

The veins on the dragonfly wings are like the "Rosetta Stone" in identifying where the animal fits. (Simon Fraser University)

Among the new species of dragonfly identified, some were closely linked to a set of fossils found in Denmark. 

"At that time, you could have walked from Kamloops to Copenhagen through forest all the way without getting your feet wet because the continents were not as widely separated from each other," Archibald said. 

Putting together the the fossil record can illuminate the different ways patterns of life spread across the planet and made the planet we recognize today., he said.

"This is the dragonfly part of that story."

Listen to the interview from Daybreak Kamloops:

With files from Daybreak Kamloops