Ancient amber reveals bug that abandoned its skin

We've seen many studies over the year detailing discoveries made in ancient amber, but this latest one is different. Dating back about 50 million years and hailing from the Baltic region, a piece of amber has been found encasing an insect's exoskeleton...but not the bug itself, which abandoned its skin to escape what was once sticky tree sap. The insect is described as being similar to a "walking stick" bug, and it was positioned alongside the first mushroom ever found preserved in Baltic amber.

This particular piece of ancient amber houses three things in total: the mushroom, the bug, and a strand of mammal hair, all visible in the image above. The amber was, in its earliest life, a bit of tree sap in what researchers say was a big subtropical coniferous forest. It's not surprising, then, that the bug which fell prey to it was a type that is disguised to resemble a stick, helping it blend into the environment.

Oregon State University's College of Science researcher George Poinar Jr detailed the findings in a recently published study. Speaking about it, he said:

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 behind by the fleeing rodent.

An analysis of the exoskeleton shows that it was shed very shortly before the tree sap encased it, indicating the bug was chowing down on the mushroom until the very last moment.

SOURCE: EurekAlert