New subterranean species discovered in Port Alberni cave

New subterranean species discovered in Port Alberni cave

WATCH: A local caver found an unusual looking insect in 2004 but it was only this week that it was confirmed to be a new discovery.

Craig Wagnell discovered a new cave southwest of Port Alberni in 2000. Then four years later, he discovered something else inside it.

“So I was just up there taking pictures of the Ammonites and this little guy photobombed the picture,” said Wagnell.

He posted pictures of the white insect online and was soon getting requests for more information. An American professor also asked him to send a sample. Wagnell learned it was a dipluran or a species of small primitive wingless insects.

“Completely white and it has no eyes,” added Wagnell. “It’s not needing eyes because it’s living in complete darkness and this doesn’t happen overnight, this happens over thousands if not millions of years.”

Unfortunately, the American professor fell ill and the research stalled.

Then a few years later, a friend of Craig took video of it in the same spot and a researcher in Spain saw it on YouTube. Wagnell was getting closer to confirmation that the little, white cave-dwelling insect is something no one had ever seen before.

“There’s only, I think, two other species within the family and it’s the most northerly one and the interest of that is the possibility that it could’ve lasted through the last Ice Age and that’s what they’re trying to find out right now,” said Wagnell.

The species now carries his name, Haplocampo Wagnelli, and he’s found them in another Port Alberni area cave as well.

Then this week, 15 years after first spotting it on the floor of a cave, he was told that it is indeed a brand new discovery.

“Ecstatic, I was really really happy but I knew it was coming, it was a long time coming but I have patience.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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