Photo/IllutrationThe fossil insect inside amber, long believed to be an ancient mantis, is actually a new species of thorny lacewing. (Provided by Hiroshi Nakamine)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A fossilized mantis embedded in amber that has long been celebrated as one-of-a-kind in Japan is actually a much rarer insect from an entirely new species, researchers said.

The species, under the lacewing family of Neuroptera Rhachiberothidae, has been named after an actor.

Hiroshi Nakamine, director of the Minoh Park Insect Museum in Mino, Osaka Prefecture, and Shuhei Yamamoto, a research fellow at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, published the findings in an international online journal, ZooKeys, on Dec. 4.

The 1.4-centimeter-long insect fossil in the 3-cm-long piece of amber was unearthed in Kuji, Iwate Prefecture, in 2006. It dates back 86 million years to the Upper Cretaceous Period.

After the Kuji Amber Museum hastily gathered opinions from experts, the fossil insect, featuring forelegs, antenna and a head, was identified as a member of the Mantodea order.

Kuji is one of the richest amber production areas in the world, and many insect fossils have been discovered from the formations. But the mantis finding created a stir because it was the first uncovered in Japan and the eighth in the world.

In April, however, Nakamine and Yamamoto took a closer look at the gem. They noticed that the shapes of antenna and forelegs and the wing pattern were different from those of a mantis.

They concluded that the fossil is instead a thorny lacewing.

According to the paper, it is the first discovery of Rhachiberothidae in East Asia.

Today, 13 types of species exist, but they are all found in sub-Saharan Africa.

The researchers gave the new species a scientific name, “Kujiberotha teruyukii,” in honor of popular actor Teruyuki Kagawa, with his approval. The species also carries the name “Kujikohakutogamamushi.”

The actor is known as an insect enthusiast and his favorite insect is the mantis. He even runs an education-related clothing business called “Insect Collection.”

“There is a large number of insect fossils discovered and stored in Japan without being studied,” Nakamine said. “I hope this discovery will motivate further research on these fossils.”