Fossil wing of a new species of scorpion fly fossil named Eomerope simpkinsae after its finder, Kathy Simpkins. This insect is closely related to fossil species that lived at the same time north of Vladivostok, highlighting connections across the Pacific between Canada and Russia in ancient times.

Kathy Simpkins, finder of a new fossil species named after her, with a fossil in front of the Princeton and District Museum. Photo: W. George Elliott Princeton, BC - March 20, 2018 - Fossil discoveries reported this week highlight a Canada-Russia connection some fifty-three million years ago. Two new species of fossil insects called scorpionflies reported from the Princeton region and at McAbee near Cache Creek are strikingly similar to other fossils of the same age from Pacific-coastal Russia. The new species from Princeton was named Eomerope simpkinsae for its finder, Kathy Simpkins, a Princeton resident. She says: "It's a thrill to contribute something to science. It’s amazing that a tiny wing holds such a big story."

“We’ve seen this connection with Russia before through fossil plants and animals, but these insects show this in a beautiful way.” says Bruce Archibald a paleontologist at Simon Fraser University and the Royal BC Museum. Archibald collaborated with fellow scientist Alexandr Rasnitsyn of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow to describe the new species in The Canadian Entomologist. 

Fifty-three million years ago, East Asia and North America were connected by land across the Bering Strait, and with mild climates extending into high latitudes, you could have walked from Vancouver to Vladivostok through forest without getting your feet wet. The ancient British Columbian forests included plants that today grow only in East Asia, such as Ginkgo, Dawn Redwood, Katsura, Chinese Golden Larch, and many others. Over time, conditions changed and these became extinct in North America, but persist across the Pacific. 

Only one species of this kind of scorpion fly survives today. But it doesn’t persist in East Asia, it lives in the forests of coastal Chile, which, like ancient British Columbia, has a temperate mid-latitude climate, but with mild winters. Archibald calls these insects wandering the globe over vast geologic time “a wonderful puzzle.” He goes on to say: “The Princeton region has been important in the science of fossil insects ever since George Mercer Dawson found fossils there in exposures of shale along creek beds in the 1870’s. It has become a vital region for understanding our past, how our modern world came to be. It’s nice to see a local collector make such an important find. There are a number of people in the region who have made significant contributions, and these will be published in upcoming works.” 

Terry Malanchuk, Operations Manager, Princeton and District Museum and Archives noted: “The Princeton District of the Similkameen Valley is unique in its diversity in minerals and paleontology, a regular ‘soup bowl’. The scorpion fly discovery represents a promise of many more discoveries yet to be made.” Archibald couldn’t agree more.