CSIRO enigma moth
The Enigma moth sheds light on evolution of moths and butterflies (CSIRO)

Less than 10mm long and only inhabiting Kangaroo Island, South Australia, a moth has been discovered that has been called a 'living dinosaur' because of its prehistoric roots which will give scientists a better understanding of the evolutionary process.

The Aenigmatinea glatzella, or more easily named the "Enigma moth", is shielded by gold and purple wings and represents a newly discovered species of ancient moths. It is the first time in over 40 years that a new type of primitive moth has been discovered.

The discovery, which was published in the Systematic Entomology journal, helps scientists better understand the way that modern day moths and butterflies have evolved over 80 to 100 million years.

Dr Ted Edwards of CSIRO's Australian National Insect Collection said that the evolution of the moth family is far more complex than previously thought.

He said: "While the discovery of this new moth strengthens the evolutionary relationships between other primate moth families, it also suggests that tongues evolved in moths and butterflies more than once."

Although this moth doesn't have a tongue, it shares many of the same features that the same species would have had 40 to 50 million years ago.

Edwards is quoted by Australia's The Age as saying: "It's really quite remarkable because it means that that ancestral line has continued right through without changing a lot of its basic structures."