Scientist Discovers The World's Smallest Free-Living Insect

The featherwing beetle measures just 0.325 millimeters.

10/13/2015 03:12 am ET | Updated Oct 13, 2015

A Russian scientist says he’s discovered the world’s smallest free-living insect -- and the critter sure is tiny.

Alexey Polilov, a professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University, gave the title to Scydosella musawasensis, or the featherwing beetle, after studying the creature using specialized software and digital micrographs. 

Polilov determined that the minuscule bug measures just 0.325 millimeters (or approximately 0.013 inches) in length. To compare, that's about one-sixth the size of the very small Pharaoh ant.

Credit: Alexey Polilov
Alexey Polilov used micrographs to accurately measure the beetle's size.

As notes, there are insects in the world that are even smaller than the featherwing beetle, but they are parasitic (in other words, they rely on its host to survive).

The title of world’s smallest insect is currently held by Dicopomorpha echmepterygis, a kind of fairyfly measuring about 0.139 millimeters. Fairyflies are parasitoids of the eggs of other insects.

The featherwing beetle, on the other hand, is a "free-living" insect, in that it lives independently. According to Nature World News, the beetle generally inhabits "areas with ample amounts of leaf-litter, decaying logs, compost heaps, tree holes, decaying fungi, animal dung or other organic matter."

The teeny insect is yellowish-brown and has an elongated oval body and a 10-segmented antennae. It was reportedly first found in Nicaragua in 1999, but scientists have been unable to get precise measurements of the creature till now.

The finding was published in the the open access journal ZooKeys on October 8.


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