A tiny critter has broken records, and is now considered to be the world's smallest free-living insect.
The tiny featherwing beetle species Scydosella musawasensis was first described back in 1999, but this study finally offers a precise measurement, Pensoft Publishers reported. The species was originally discovered in Nicaragua, but now scientists have collected as many as 85 specimens in Columbia. The smallest of these specimens measured in at only 0.325 millimeters.
"The smallest insects have recently attracted considerable attention as models for studying animal miniaturization, since they are among the smallest metazoans and since many morphological features unique to them and resulting from their extremely small size have been described (Polilov 2015). The size of the smallest known parasitoid insect, male Dicopomorpha eschmepterigis is known rather precisely, and has been determined by using modern equipment. On the other hand, it is not quite clear which free-living insect is the smallest," the researchers wrote in the study abstract, published recently in the open access journal ZooKeys.
The Scydosella musawasensis is has now been deemed both the world's smallest beetle and non-parasitoid insect. The insect is characterized by an oval body with yellowish-brown coloration, and antennae that are split into 10 segments. The findings were made using specialized software and digital micrographs. The recent survey is only the second record of these tiny insects, and reveals they have a much wider range of distribution than was previously believed. This also means the localities of the fungi that the insect feeds on is more widespread than scientists originally thought.