Insect With Triangular Head Preserved in 100 Million Year Old Amber

Posted on January 26, 2017

Aethiocarenus burmanicus head

Researchers from Oregon State University discovered an unusual looking insect preserved in 100-million-year-old amber. The insect has a triangular head and alien-like appearance. It has ant-like body.

The insect has such unusual features that a new order was created. Every species of insect on Earth has been placed in only 31 existing orders. This new insect required the creation of a 32nd order.

George Poinar, Jr., an emeritus professor of entomology in the OSU College of Science, says in the announcement, "This insect has a number of features that just don't match those of any other insect species that I know. 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 insect has a triangular head with bulging eyes. The vertex of the right triangle is located at the base of insect's neck. Poinar says this is different from any other known insect. It would have given the insect the ability to turn its head sideways and see nearly 180 degrees. It had a narrow flat body and long slender legs. The insect had glands on its neck which researchers suspect secreted a chemical used to repel predators.

The insect has been placed in the new order Aethiocarenodea. It has been named Aethiocarenus burmanicus. This is a reference to the Hukawng Valley mines of Myanmar (previously known as Burma) where it was found. A research paper was published here in the journal, .

Poinar also says, "The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed. 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."

Aethiocarenus burmanicus preserved in amber

Photos: George Poinar, Jr., courtesy of Oregon State University

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