Francesco Vitali, Invertebrate Zoology Collections Curator at MNHN; Credit: (Above): MNHN; (below) Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Luxembourg's National Museum of Natural History (Musée national d'histoire naturelle Luxembourg - MNHN), also known as the natur musée, has announced that one of its researchers, Francesco Vitali, recently helped unravel the mystery of a new species of fossil beetles: "Attenborough’s Beauty".

Attenborough’s Beauty was on display in the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s "Prehistoric Journey" exhibition for decades waiting to be identified. The beetle is from the Green River Formation in Garfield County, Colorado (US) and lived nearly 49 million years ago.

This new frog-legged beetle species was announced on Friday 6 August 2021 in the scientific journal “Papers in Paleontology.” Frank Krell, the Science Senior Curator of Entomology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Francesco Vitali, the Invertebrate Zoology Collections Curator at the natur musée, worked together to identify this new species.  

Identifying this specimen was challenging. In the Denver museum’s exhibition display, it was labelled as a longhorn beetle. However, there were some features that did not match up with the characteristics of other longhorn beetles, which led Frank Krell to seek out Francesco Vitali, a longhorn beetle expert from the natur musée.

“I was delighted to have the opportunity to work on such a magnificent and unique fossil,” commented Mr Vitali.

Together, they looked at all the preserved details. In the end, it was the beetle’s crooked legs (its curved hind tibiae) that gave away its true identity: a frog-legged leaf beetle.

Because of its beauty, Frank Krell and Francesco Vitali decided to name the new species Pulchritudo attenboroughi, or Attenborough's Beauty, in honour of the renowned English broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough.