World’s oldest bug is Kerrera millipede

American scientists found that the fossil millipede Kampecaris obanensis from Kerrera is 425 million years old. Photo: British Geological Survey

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A 425-million-year-old millipede fossil from Kerrera is the world’s oldest bug, according to American researchers.

The story of the fossil and the research that found it fame it will definitely take pride of place in a new exhibition being planned on the island about its heritage.

A call has already gone out for other tales, photographs and artefacts to help piece together Kerrera’s past –  and the story of the ancient millipede will fit in nicely, says Aideen Shields who is project co-ordinator for the Isle of Kerrera Development Trust.

‘I’ve been rescuing millipedes out of my wee one’s sandpit in our back garden on the island and I’m now looking at them in a whole new light!

‘So much of Kerrera feels unspoiled and untouched by human life- this is partly why the island feels so special. We’re proud that this landscape can help scientists around the world to make discoveries like this about the evolution of life on earth.

‘The discovery of this millipede and the Tortotubus fungus in 2016, the oldest example of a land-dwelling species ever discovered,  really help to put Kerrera on the world map. It will certainly be forming part of our Heritage exhibition.’

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin say the millipede fossil is older than any known fossil of an insect, arachnid or other related creepy-crawly and that it suggests bugs and plants evolved much faster than previously believed.

After analysing the remains of the insect which had fossilised into stone, the researchers believe the  ancient creatures left lakes to live in complex forest ecosystems within just 40 million years.

The team used a technique to extract microscopic material known as zircons to help them find out the millipede is 75 million years younger than previously estimated. The research was recently published in the journal Historical Biology.

Although it is certainly possible there are older fossils of both bugs and plants, Professor Michael Brookfield who led the study said the fact they have not been found – even in deposits known for preserving delicate fossils from this era – could show that the ancient millipede and plant fossils that have already been discovered are the oldest specimens.

Earlier this year Kerrera was awarded more than £100,000 to turn its former school into a community hub. One idea is that the possible heritage exhibition will find a home in that fit-for-purpose centre when its doors open in the future.

‘We know there’s lots of folk out there with a connection to Kerrera. Please help us to gather stories and if you have any nuggets of info, old photos or just suggestions of where to look – please get in touch,’ said Aideen.

Other fossils if found may also feature.

To get in touch email heritagekerrera@gmail.com