Researchers have found a very old and “alien like” insect and they’ve decided it doesn’t fit anywhere in the current tree of life.
There are over 1 million described species of insects and all of them can be grouped neatly into 31 existing orders — but not this one. Entomologists believe this creature lived about 100 million years ago, roaming the bark and fungi of the Cretaceous. It was tiny, but for the mites and worms of the days, it probably looked like a monster.
“This insect has a number of features that just don’t match those of any other insect species that I know,” said Dr. Poinar, an emeritus professor of entomology at Oregon State University’s College of Science and co-author of the study, in an OSU press release. “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 distinguishing feature of Aethiocarenus burmanicus sp. et gen. nov. is its unique head, the dorsum of which is shaped like an isosceles right triangle with the hypotenuse at the top and vertex positioned at the base of the neck,” write Poinar and his co-author Alex Brown in the abstract of their study. “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.”
Scaring the kids
“The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed,” Poinar said. “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.”