The Best Place to Discover New Life Forms? Truck Stops

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A mantophasmid from Erongoberg, Namibia. It was collected on the first expedition to find living mantophasmids in 2002

You never know what you’ll find at a truck stop.

In addition to wet, dirty bathrooms and a possible hot dog, the truck stop may be the place to play scientist and discover new species.

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One day back in 2002, German biologist Oliver Zompro was looking through specimen collections when he saw a fossil that looked completely different than all the others. Convinced he had found a new order of animals (actually a suborder now known as Mantophasmatodea), he decided to go a-hunting in South Africa to find more of these insects.

They found tons of these critters scattered about the South African continent. Following the expedition, fellow scientist Piotr Naskrecki stopped at a “filthy truck stop” just outside of Capetown. There, Naskrecki went about looking for bugs and found a new species of the suborder.

Naskrecki must have gotten a little gung-ho about the truck stop thing afterward, because Scientific American notes, “As Naskrecki can confirm, if you go around truck stops with a headlamp, vials and ethanol at night you might discover a new life form, but you will have some explaining to do, so practice saying, ‘Officer, the vials are for insects. I am trying to make a discovery.’”

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