There are around one million species of insect on our planet. But many more have yet to be discovered. The latest to join the cohort of critters has a bizarre “alien-like” appearance, according to the scientists who discovered it.
Aethiocarenus burmanicus isn’t like any of its other insect brethren; what with it’s large globulous eyes, triangular head and the ability to see almost 180 degrees by turning its head sideways. But don’t fret, the species was discovered in amber and is long since extinct. Phew.
Scientists found A.Burmanicus encased in amber in Myanmar and estimate it to be around 100 million years old. It’s so different from any other species that they placed it in a new order –Aethiocarenus – and that’s a big deal as up until now all insects were only 31 orders in existence. Another Aethiocarenus species has been found near the same place, making it a rather exclusive order to be in; in comparison the order Coleoptera – beetles – boosts membership of thousands of species.
It’s thought that A.Burmanicus spent its time living in bark, hunting and gorging itself on mites, worms or fungi. Most freakishly of all, the tiny, fast moving critter may well have been able to look behind itself. Why it died out remains a bit of a mystery.
“With it’s long neck, big eyes and strange oblong head, I thought it resembled E.T.,” says George Poinar Jr., an emeritus professor of entomology at Oregon State University. He’s one of the world’s experts on beasties found trapped in amber. “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.”
So there you go, A.Burmanicus shoots straight to the top of the contenders for The Creepiest Things Discovered by Man award. Not bad for a 100 million year old dude.