• Researchers identified a beetle species that lived 49 million years ago
  • The specimen is among the "best preserved beetle fossils"
  • It is now named Pulchritudo attenboroughi, after Sir David Attenborough

A pair of researchers described a rather special frog-legged beetle fossil and named it after none other than famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough. The sample is said to be one of the "most magnificent" fossils of its kind.

The specimen that the researchers described in their paper, published in Papers in Paleontology, had been on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Sciences' "Prehistoric Journey" exhibition since it opened in 1995, the Natural Museum of Natural History of Luxembourg (MNHN) said in a news release. The fossil sample of the species, which lived some 49 million years ago, was collected from the Eocene Green River Formation in Garfield County, Colorado.

The fossil is rather special for quite a few reasons. For one, it is so well-preserved that even the patterns on its wings can still be seen. According to MNHN, although beetles are pretty hardy when they're still alive, they "do not easily fossilize" and often only one wing casing is left behind in the fossil record.

"WING - CASES (elytra) are amongst the most sturdy structures of the beetle exoskeleton and relatively common in the fossil record, but the large majority of them are simple impressions without colour preservation," the researchers wrote in their study.

But in the image of the fossil, one can clearly see the exquisite details of the creature that lived millions of years ago.

"This is one of the most magnificent beetle fossils ever found," one of the study's two authors, Frank Krell of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, said. "The patterning is preserved in unsurpassed clarity and contrast, making this one of the best-preserved beetle fossils."

For years, the specimen was identified to be that of a longhorn beetle. However, it had features that "didn't match up" with other longhorn beetles, MNHN noted. Krell and beetle expert Francesco Vitali, of MNHN, studied the specimen and the pair eventually identified it as a frog-legged leaf beetle, thanks to its crooked legs.

Since the specimen did not match up with any other existing frog-legged leaf beetle genera, they also had the chance to name it Pulchritudo attenboroughi. Pulchritudo is Latin for beauty. So, the meaning of the name is "Attenborough's Beauty."

"The specific name attenboroughi is the genitive of the Latinized form of the surname Attenborough, dedicated to Sir David Frederick Attenborough, broadcaster and naturalist, who has nothing to do with this fossil but has been inspiring the authors, their family down to the littlest, and millions of others by his unsurpassed documentaries on the natural world, extant and bygone," the researchers wrote.

"Nobody imparts the grandeur and beauty of nature more impressively than Sir David. This fossil, unique in its preservation and beauty, is an apt specimen to honor the great man," they added.

Just weeks ago, a state-of-the-art British Antarctic Survey boat, worth £200 million ($277 million), was also named after Attenborough.

david attenborough
Pictured: Attenborough launches National Moth Recording Scheme at London Zoo on May 2, 2007 in London. Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images