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SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Sleepy Hollow has its headless horseman and now Montana has a headless ladybug.
The newly discovered insect tucks its head into its throat - making it not only a new species but an entirely new genus, or larger classification of plants and animals.
Ross Winton captured the insect in 2009 in traps he set in a sand dune while an entomology graduate student at Montana State University. Winton, now a wildlife technician in Idaho, at first thought he had parts of an ant but then discovered the bug can hide its head, much like a turtle ducking into its shell.
Winton sent his discovery to scientists in Australia working on this group of insects and the headless ladybug was formally described in a recent issue of the peer-reviewed journal Systemic Entomology.
Just two specimens of the tan, pinhead-sized ladybugs, also known as ladybird beetles, have ever been collected, a male in Montana and a female in Idaho, scientists said, making it the rarest species in the United States.
However, the new species - Allenius iviei - was named after his former professor and Montana State University entomologist Michael Ivie.
Ivie said it was rare to discover a new beetle in the United States and rarer still to uncover a completely new genus. The discovery is no small accomplishment considering the bug is the size and color of a grain of sand, he added.
He said it was unclear why the beetle slips its head into a tube in its midsection.
"It's a whole new kind of ladybug. Whatever this does, it is very specialized. It's quite the exciting little beast,"