“E.T.-like” ancient insect gets its own scientific order - Earth.com

“E.T.-like” ancient insect gets its own scientific order

Animal classification is a pretty orderly system, with everything neatly divided into its own category. However, when scientists discovered a bizarre and ancient insect that resembled E.T. more than any other bug they’d ever seen before, they had no choice but to give the creature its own scientific order.

The 100-million-year-old ancient insect, preserved in amber, “has a number of features that just don’t match those of any other insect species that I know,” said Professor George Poinar, Jr. of Oregon State University. He believes that the creature is “unique in the inset world,” which is why researchers had no choice but to devote a brand new order to the bizarre bug. Poinar’s study about the new bug has been published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

Scientists named the insect Aethiocarenus burmanicus, and its new order will be called Aethiocarenodea. The species’ name is rooted in Myanmar, which was previously known as Burma. It was discovered in the Hukawng Valley mines there.

The insect has a triangular head, bulging eyes, and a bizarre neck design that would have allowed it to see almost 180 degrees if it turned its neck sideways. Scientists have only discovered one other specimen of Aethiocarenus burmanicus. It was also found preserved in amber. They are currently the only two species in the order Aethiocarenodea. The species lived some 100 million years ago and has long been extinct.

“The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much the way aliens are often portrayed,” said Poinar. “With its long neck, big eyes and strange oblong head, I thought it resembled E.T.”

He said that he had even designed a Halloween mask that looked like the head of his odd new discovery, but when trick-or-treaters came to his door, the mask scared them so badly that he had to remove it.

By Dawn Henderson, Earth.com Staff Writer

Source: George Poinar, Oregon State University

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