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

‘Our offence wasn’t on fire but our bus was’

Wranglers split games against Sicamous

Work truck stolen from Country Prime Meats along Highway 97 near Lac la Hache

100 Mile RCMP responded to 84 complaints and calls for service during the past week

GoFundMe started after fire leaves Ruth Lake cabin severely damaged

‘The fire hit hard and fast - he lost everything’

Will you be voting for a different federal party than you did in 2015?

The weekly web poll for the 100 Mile Free Press

VIDEO: U.S. officials refute British couple’s ‘accidental’ border-crossing claim

Authorities say couple was arrested after illegal entry from B.C., with $16,000 and marijuana

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

ICBC willing to loosen grip on driver claim data, David Eby says

Private insurers say claims record monopoly keeps them out

B.C. principal suspended for failing to help student who reported inappropriate touching

Principal didn’t remove student from the teacher’s class nor call the parents within a reasonable time

Most Read