Researchers have discovered a 100-million-year-old alien-like female insect with a triangular head and bulging eyes preserved in amber in Myanmar.
The features and appearance of the insect is so unusual that it has been placed in its own scientific “order” called Aethiocarenodea, an incredibly rare event. An order is a scientific classification for organisms that is broader than the genus and family. Only one other specimen of the insect has been located, also preserved in Burmese amber.
There are about 1 million described species of insects, and millions more, still to be discovered, but every species of insect on Earth has been placed in only 31 existing orders. Now there’s one more.
The tiny creature, now called Aethiocarenus burmanicus, did not land on Earth via spaceship, but rather lived in what are now mines in Hukawng Valley in Myanmar, the researchers said. There, hiding out in the miniscule cracks in tree bark, the insect may have hunted for mites, worms or fungi, the researchers added. Nearby, dinosaurs would have lumbered by, the scientists who discovered these have said.
“This insect has a number of features that just don’t match those of any other insect species that I know,” study researcher George Poinar Jr., an emeritus professor of entomology at Oregon State University College of Science and one of the world’s leading experts on plant and animal life forms found preserved in the semi-precious stone amber. He added, “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.”
Perheps the most unusual, he said, was that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed, a triangular head with bulging eyes, with the vertex of the right triangle located at the base of the neck. This is different from any other known insect, and would have given this species the ability to see almost 180 degrees by turning its head sideways.
“The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed,” Poinar said. “With its long neck, big eyes and strange oblong head, I thought it resembled E.T. I even made a Halloween mask that resembled the head of this insect. But when I wore the mask when trick-or-treaters came by, it scared the little kids so much I took it off.”
Insects today can turn their heads 180 degrees, but up and down but side wise like this.
The insect, probably an omnivore, also has a long, narrow, flat body, and long slender legs. It could have moved quickly, and literally seen behind itself. It also had glands on the neck that secreted a deposit that scientists believe most likely was a chemical to repel predators.
Needless to say, this species from such ancient amber is long extinct. It obviously had special features that allowed it to survive in the forests of Burma, 100 million years ago, but for some unknown reason it disappeared. Loss of its preferred habitat is likely possibility.