Remains of an insect that lived 100 million years ago during the time of the dinosaurs were found preserved in amber. The species has an alien-like appearance and features that researchers think resemble those of E.T.
The researchers described the wingless female insect in a study published Cretaceous Research. They said that the insect likely lived in the fissures of tree barks, where it fed on worms, mites, or fungi during prehistoric times.
Unique From Rest Of Other Identified Insect Species
Science has so far identified about 1 million insects but the identified insect species belong to only 31 existing scientific orders. The newly discovered prehistoric insect though was unique and different enough from the rest of other insects that scientists decided to place the creature into its own order.
"I had never really seen anything like it. It appears to be unique in the insect world, and after considerable discussion we decided it had to take its place in a new order," said study author George Poinar Jr. from the Oregon State University.
Poinar, who specializes on plant and animal life forms preserved in amber, added that the strangest thing about the discovery is that the insect's head "looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed."
Assigned To Newly Created Order Because Of Unique Features
The species, which was named Aethiocarenus burmanicus for the Hukawng Valley mines of Myanmar where it was discovered, was assigned to the newly created order Aethiocarenodea, the 32nd classification of groups of insects that science recognizes. The only other specimen of this insect that scientists have located was also preserved in amber.
Aethiocarenus burmanicus, which lived alongside dinosaurs, is tiny but scary-looking with its bulging eyes. One of the most unusual characteristics of the insect is that the vertex of its right triangle-shaped head is located at the base of its neck.
Scientists said that this feature is unique from any other known insect species and would have allowed the now-extinct species to see nearly 180 degrees when it turned its head to the side.
"While insects with triangular-shaped heads are common today, the hypotenuse of the triangle is always located at the base of the head and attached to the neck, with the vertex at the apex of the head," the researchers wrote in their study describing the prehistoric insect.
Secreted Chemical To Protect Itself From Prehistoric Predators
The insect, which researchers think is an omnivore, also features a long, narrow, and flat body as well as long slender legs, which suggest it could have moved around quickly. On its neck are glands that secreted a deposit, possibly a chemical that repels predators.
The species' unique feature may have helped it survive the forests of what is formerly Burma 100 million years ago but for a still unidentified reason, the insect has disappeared. A likely reason for its extinction is the loss of its preferred habitat.
Last year, researchers also reported finding a pair of bird-like wings preserved in amber mined in Myanmar. The discovery revealed that birds in the era of dinosaurs were almost fully developed when they were hatched.