Super rare trilobite beetle found in S'pore, makes it into National Geographic

It is so rare it has only been seen mating twice in public the last century.

Belmont Lay | November 13, 2016, 10:38 AM

A super rare trilobite beetle native to Singapore has been caught on video and made it into National Geographic.

So fascinating is this find, the video raked up one million views in three hours of its publication on Facebook on Nov. 13, 2016.

Mark Wong, who is a Nat Geo young explorer, was said to be "tromping through the jungle in Singapore" when he flipped over a log and saw what looked like a fungus that moves.

The trilobite beetle caught on video is a spectacular-looking female. Males have rarely been seen because they look nothing like the females.

Male trilobite beetles are about one-tenth in size, black in colour and look ordinary. The only way to tell if it is a male trilobite beetle is by conducting a DNA analysis or if it is seen mating with the larger female.

Nat Geo didn't reveal the exact location of where the creature was discovered in Singapore -- a good thing because, or else, they might get removed from the natural habitat by unscrupulous collectors.

The prehistoric-looking trilobite beetles got their name from trilobites. Trilobites are creepy-crawly, armored sea creatures that appear in the fossil record.

But both creatures aren't even remotely related -- they just happen to look alike.

These prehistoric-looking trilobite beetles have existed since around 47 million years ago. This is some 200 million years after trilobites had gone extinct.

Precious little is known about trilobite beetles, other than that they come in various colours: Purple, green, and black ones with bright orange dots.

One of their features is the ability to retract their heads like tortoises.

Although females were spotted and identified as early as the 1800s, it wasn't until in 1922 that a Swedish zoologist named Eric Mjoberg arrived in Borneo to make a determined effort to look for the elusive male trilobite beetle.

It took a cash reward of $10 (a lot of money then) and the enlistment of locals to help in the search before a pair of male and female trilobite beetles was found mating.

Since then, a mating pair of trilobite beetles have only been witnessed twice so far.

The second time was in 1993, when a a pair was caught in the act by Alvin T.C. Wong.


Top photo via National Geographic video

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