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Nelloptodes gretae - beetle named after Greta Thunberg ©The Trustees of the Natural History Museum

New beetle species named in honour of Greta Thunberg's environmental activism

Published: 25th October, 2019 at 14:44
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Scientists named the insect Nelloptodes gretae for the 16-year-old’s ‘outstanding contribution’ in raising global awareness of climate change.

A tiny new species of beetle that was found more than 50 years ago has been named after environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg.


Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London have officially called the insect Nelloptodes gretae to honour the 16-year-old Swedish activist’s “outstanding contribution” in raising global awareness of climate change.

The arthropod, which has no eyes or wings, is less than 1mm long and belongs to the Ptiliidae family – which is made up of some of the world’s smallest beetles.

Dr Michael Darby, a scientific associate at the Natural History Museum, said: “I chose this name as I am immensely impressed with the work of this young campaigner and wanted to acknowledge her outstanding contribution in raising awareness of environmental issues.”

Greta Thunberg has had a tiny beetle named after her ©Victoria Jones/PA
Greta Thunberg has had a tiny beetle named after her ©Victoria Jones/PA

The beetle was first found in 1965 by British naturalist Dr William C Block in Nairobi, Kenya.

His collection was donated to the Natural History Museum in 1978 and the beetle was spotted by Dr Darby while he was studying the museum’s Spirit Collection.

Read more on new species:

Dr Max Barclay, senior curator in charge of Coleoptera at the Natural History Museum, said: “The name of this beetle is particularly poignant since it is likely that undiscovered species are being lost all the time, before scientists have even named them, because of biodiversity loss.

"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.”

The beetle has been featured in The Entomologist journal’s monthly magazine.


Ms Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, which was later awarded to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Greta's not the only famous beetle

Meet Trigonopterus chewbacca

Why would a small, hard beetle from Papua New Guinea be named after the huge, loveable (but not to be messed-with) fuzzball from Star Wars? According to the 2016 study “this species has dense scales on the head and the legs, which reminds the authors of Chewbacca’s dense fur”.

See more animals named after Star Wars creatures and characters

Trigonopterus chewbacca image by Dr Alexander Riedel


Amy BarrettEditorial Assistant, BBC Science Focus

Amy is the Editorial Assistant at BBC Science Focus. Her BA degree specialised in science publishing and she has been working as a journalist since graduating in 2018. In 2020, Amy was named Editorial Assistant of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors. She looks after all things books, culture and media. Her interests range from natural history and wildlife, to women in STEM and accessibility tech.


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