Andrea DeMeer Kathy Simpkins admires a copy of the rare fossil she discovered at the Allenby Mine site in April 2016.

50-million-year-old fossil found in B.C. town makes history

Paleontologist Dr. Bruce Archibald says Princeton, B.C. is becoming famous for giving up rare fossils

A Princeton woman out for a casual scavenger with the local fossil club two years ago made a find that is rocking the world of paleontological insects.

Kathy Simpkins not only discovered a 50-million-year-old fossil, she unearthed a new – and very, very old – bug.

As a result, a previously unknown species of scorpionfly now bears her name – Eomerope simpkinsae – and she’s in for a little bit of scientific fame as the discovery and its implications are part of a paper released this month by The Canadian Entomologist.

“I love rocks and fossils but I’ve never found something that is this significant and it’s great to bring it forward to science,” she said in an interview with The Spotlight.

“I was with the Princeton Rock and Fossil Club and we were looking for fossils in the old shale pile [at the former Allenby Mine]. It was so random. It was this time of year. I was just flipping through a pile of rocks – flip, flip, flip – and then a wing.”

Related: A trip into a world before time…

Simpkins described the discovery as “neat.” Without understanding its value she donated it to the Princeton Museum where she is a director and volunteer, with about 30 years experience in fossils.

When Dr. Bruce Archibald, a paleontologist with Simon Fraser University and the Royal BC Museum, was passing through the facility she made a point of showing it to him.

“I’ve seen many tens of thousands of fossils,” said Archibald, “and very rarely have I seen a find of this kind.

I knew right away it was a wonderful thing.”

The fossil is significant, he said, as similar specimens have only been found in the Cache Creek area of the province and in Russia.

“This really brings homes the connection between BC and Russia,” he said. “Fifty-three million years ago East Asia and North America were connected by land across the Bering Strait…You could have walked from Vancouver to Vladivostok through forest without getting your feet wet.”

Archibald co-authored the article for The Entomologist with Alexandr Rasnitsyn, of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

There is only one living species of the scorpionfly, found in the coastal forests of Chile, he added. “Like ancient BC [it] has a temperate mid-latitude climate, but with mild winters.”

The Princeton Museum eventually transferred curatorship of the fossil – which is about two inches square – to the Royal British Columbia Museum.

The fossil discovered by Kathy Simpkins is the wing of a previously unknown species of the scorpionfly.

The Princeton Museum will display a finely-made copy of the fossil, as well as a static display provided by the Royal Museum.

Archibald said this discovery will add to Princeton’s world-wide reputation for fossils, noting the first insect fossils unearthed in BC were found here more than 150 years ago.

Numerous residents have made important discoveries in the past, he said.

“Citizen science has been a really important thing here.”

Related: First B.C. dinosaur skull discovered near Tumbler Ridge

Another recent area find, a fossilized ant discovered by Ed Staples and Nienke Klaver of Coalmont, is currently under study. The closest living relative of that insect lives only in Australia, said Archibald.

From looking at fossils “we sort of get a picture of how life has sorted itself. Understanding the history of how things have changed helps us understand where we are and where we are going,” he said.

“I guess the story here is that Princeton fossils are making a big, world-wide impression.”

Museum manager Terry Malanchuk said the Eomorope simpkisae will elevate the profile of the Princeton Museum, and increase interest and focus on the area’s resources.

Simpkins said “I don’t think we are going to have busloads of people from Vancouver rock clubs [but] paleo-bug people will say ‘Whoo Princeton.’”

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com
.



andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Paleontologist Dr. Bruce Archibald says Princeton is becoming famous for giving up rare fossils. This ant fossil is currently under study. It was found and donated by Ed Staples and Nienke Klaver about two years ago.

Just Posted

Quarterdeck restaurant, pub temporarily closed until summer

“We have decided to close the pub until April 30, 2019,” stated the pub’s announcement.

Port Hardy’s RCMP Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen: ‘It’s business as usual’ after cannabis legalization

Local RCMP will still be on the lookout for impaired driving despite cannabis legalization.

Jay Dixon finishes top three for School and District Leadership award

“I believe it’s all of our responsibility for our schools to provide quality education,” said Dixon.

7 Mile Landfill operations tender closes October

Taxes covering the landfill have not increased over the past 15 years and are not expected to soon.

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Voters talk on Port Hardy’s municipal election

Port Hardy residents talked on local issues and reasons to vote

Voters talk on Port Hardy’s municipal election

Port Hardy residents talked on local issues and reasons to vote

Bushido Shotokan Karate-do Academy continues student intake until November

“Our goal is to endure no matter what you’re faced with,” said DeToro about local karate classes.

B.C. passenger caught smoking weed in a car issued $230 fine

Saanich police did a field sobriety test on the driver and deemed it safe for him to drive

North Island local elections’ home stretch – let’s remember to vote, no matter what

“It’s just as much about picking a candidate than it is about exercising our right.”

Payette invites critics to ‘come and spend a few days’ with her

Governor General Julie Payette made her first official to B.C. back in March

More pot stores expected in B.C. in coming ‘weeks and months’: attorney general

Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth visited the new BC Cannabis Store in the province’s Interior

Telus launches charitable foundation to help vulnerable youth

The Telus Friendly Future Foundation complements other social initiatives by the company, including Mobility for Good

Police say suspicious death of B.C. artist ruled a homicide

Patrick Zube Aylward’s body was found in a residence on a rural road outside of Seton Portage, west of Lillooet, B.C.

Most Read