Ancient Insect Jumped Out Of Its Skin To Escape Sticky Trap

Posted: Jul 16 2016, 4:06am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 17 2016, 9:37pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Ancient Insect Jumped out of its Skin to Escape Sticky Trap
Credit: Oregon State University

Researchers have discovered a 50-million-year-old amber piece which contains just the exoskeleton of the bug but not the bug itself.

Scientists have discovered many insects trapped inside amber over the years. These permanent ‘tombs’ are created when insect lands on the branch of a tree and accidently get stuck in the sticky liquid or resin coming out of it. Over time, the resin fossilizes into amber and appears like a sparkling gem. 

Amber is a kind of fossil where insects are found preserved perfectly and wholly. Recently, researchers have discovered an amber fossil which is totally different. The ancient amber contains just the exoskeleton of the bug…but not the bug itself. It appears that the insect had literally jumped out of its skin just as it was about to be doomed. The insect that resembles a modern-day 'walking stick' had just enough time to escape from the sticky trap, leaving only its skin behind.

“The tiny insect in this fossil was a phasmid, one of the kinds of insects that uses its shape to resemble sticks or leaves as a type of camouflage,” said George Poinar, a researcher from Oregon State University. 

“It would have shed its skin repeatedly before reaching adulthood, in a short lifespan of a couple months. In this case, the ability to quickly get out of its skin, along with being smart enough to see a problem coming, saved its life.”

The amber dates back to 50 million years ago and came from a place near the Baltic Sea which now comprises Germany, Poland, Russia and Scandinavia. Baltic region is the largest known deposit of amber which has yielded more than 100,000 tons of amber so far. The particular piece of amber had a mushroom, the first found in Baltic amber and a mammalian hair too.

"From what we can see in this fossil, a tiny mushroom was bitten off, probably by a rodent, at the base of a tree. An insect, similar to a walking stick, was probably also trying to feed on the mushroom. It appears to have immediately jumped out of its skin and escaped, just as tree sap flowed over the remaining exoskeleton and a hair left by the fleeing rodent.” Poinar said. 

Researchers say that whatever is locked in the amber, it is extremely well preserved and has retained its color and pattern. The particular insect species does not exist anymore as well as the mushroom preserved inside it. However, the mushroom hints at an entirely new species and genus, not found in the Earth before.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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