Oregon State University researchers have found a 100-million-year-old insect that seems to have an “E.T.-like” appearance. The insect, preserved in amber, opens up a new category for insects.
The insect has been named Aethiocarenus burmanicus, after where it was found in the Hukawng Valley mines of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The new insect is now categorized in the Aethiocarenodea order.
As stated in the journal Cretaceous Research, the alien-like insect is a female. It is wingless and most likely resided in the fissures in the bark of trees. It probably fed on worms, fungi or mites.
“This insect has a number of features that just don’t match those of any other insect species that I know,” stated researcher George Poinar, Jr. of OSU College of Science. “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.”
The alien-like insect has a triangular head and bulging eyes. This feature is not found in other insects and this probably gave the extinct insect the ability to see nearly 180 degrees by turning its head to the side.
The researchers believe that the insect must be an omnivore. Its long, thin, flat body and long slender legs could have allowed it to move quickly. Its glands on the neck secreted a chemical it used to repel predators. However, the research team does not know why the species disappeared. Perhaps it was due to habitat loss.
“The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed,” adds Poinar. “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.”
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