“You are never too small to make a difference”: Tiny species of beetle named after climate activist Greta Thunberg

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(Photo: CBS NEWSPATH)

(CBS NEWS)- Scientists are honoring the work of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg in a unique way — they are naming a new species of beetle after her. Nelloptodes gretae belongs to a group of some of the smallest known free-living animals, London’s Natural History Museum said Friday

The species is fitting for the Swedish 16-year-old. “Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do,” Thunberg once said. “But I’ve learned that you are never too small to make a difference.”

Not to mention the beetle’s antennae, which resemble Thunberg’s signature pigtail braids. 

Michael Darby, a scientific associate at the museum who found the insect during his studies of the museum’s vast collection, chose the name to honor Thunberg’s contribution to saving the planet.

“I’m really a great fan of Greta,” Darby said. “She is a great advocate for saving the planet and she is amazing at doing it, so I thought that this was a good opportunity to recognize that.”

The species — part of a family of beetles called Ptiliidae — can be found all over the world. However, they are relatively unknown because of their tiny size. 

The beetle is less than 1 millimeter long. They have no eyes or wings and are a pale yellow and gold color. 

Nelloptodes gretae was first discovered in Kenya in the 1960s by entomologist William Block, who donated the samples to the museum, where they have stayed ever since.

Thunberg has become known worldwide for her weekly climate strikes, which she started on her own in 2018. Since then, the teenager has inspired millions of people to spend their Fridays urging their governments to take action against climate change. 

Her movement has resulted in the largest climate protests in history. 

“It is likely that undiscovered species are being lost all the time, before scientists have even named them, because of biodiversity loss,” Dr. Max Barclay, the museum’s senior curator of beetles, told the BBC. “So it is appropriate to name one of the newest discoveries after someone who has worked so hard to champion the natural world and protect vulnerable species.”

Thunberg is in good company: Darby also named a species of Ptiliidae after Sir David Attenborough. 

“I’d also like to stress that I’ve not named this species after Greta because it is small — it’s just that this is the group that I work on,” he said. 

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