Scientists discover new species fossilised in 16-million-year-old amber

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A subtle new species has been discovered after being preserved in amber for millions of years, which scientists are calling a “once in generation” discovery.

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The micro-beast, which is only over half a millimeter long, is a previously unknown species of tardigrade: eight-legged creatures also known as water bears known to survive apocalyptic conditions.

The discovery, made by scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Harvard University, is just the third fossilized tardigrade on record.


Researchers have added a new species, named Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus, to the modern tardigrade superfamily Isohypsibioidea and said it could help them map the progress of creatures through history.

Dr Phil Barden, senior author of a report published on the discovery, said: “The discovery of fossil tardigrades is truly a once-in-a-generation event.

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“What is so remarkable is that the tardigrade is a ubiquitous ancient lineage that has seen it on Earth, from the fall of the dinosaurs to the rise of terrestrial colonization of plants.

“Still, they are like a ghost lineage to paleontologists with almost no fossil record. Finding any tardigrade fossil remains is an exciting moment where we can see their progress through Earth’s history empirically. can.”

Part of what makes the find so rare is how difficult it is to detect tardigrades. Researchers spent months studying the 16 million-year-old Dominican amber specimen in which the tardigrade was eventually found, before they even noticed that it was there.

The new species is by far the best-imaged fossil tardigrade, revealing the invertebrate’s mouthparts and needle-like claws in micron-level detail.

Scientists have also been able to take a closer look at its internal anatomy, which will help them establish how the organisms – which have survived many mass extinction events and even the vacuum of space – have developed.

NS Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus Will be housed in the American Museum of Natural History Division of Zoology’s Invertebrates.


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