The fossilized remains of a 100-million-year-old insect have been uncovered in a piece of ancient amber in Myanmar, a recent study published in the journal Cretaceous Research reports.
The species — named Aethiocarenus burmanicus and discovered by researchers at Oregon State University — existed at the same time as the dinosaurs. It had a unique, alien-like appearance complete with an odd head, bulging eyes and, most interesting to researchers, a triangle-shaped head with a vertex located at the base of its neck.
That last feature is unique because it has never been seen in any other known insect species. The strange vertex would have allowed the species to see almost 180 degrees when it turned its head to the side, giving it a chance to better scan the area around it.
“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, Tech Times reports.
A. burmanicus likely lived in the fissures of tree bark where it fed on prehistoric worms, mites, or fungi. It had a long, narrow, flat body with long, thin legs that suggested it moved around quickly, and neck glands that secreted some type of chemical that may have been used to repel predators. These features would have helped it survive the harsh world in which it lived.
Scientists have currently identified over 1 million species of insects. However, the new bug is so unique that they have put it into its own order, known as Aethiocarenodea. This is the 32nd classification group for insects. The only other known specimen from the group was also found in amber.
“This insect has a number of features that just don’t match those of any other insect species that I know,” said lead author George Poinar Jr., an emeritus professor of entomology at Oregon State University, in a statement. “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.”