There are 950,000 species of insects on Earth -- but a new discovery has scientists stumped

George O. Poinar specialises in discovering new forms of life we never knew existed. How? By looking back in time.

He examines ancient life that was preserved in chunks of amber millions of years ago. In 2016, he discovered a new plant species, which was a 45-million-year-old relative of the coffee plant.

And now, he’s discovered a new type of insect he jokingly refers to as ET — because of its triangular head and bulging eyes. There are about 950,000 documented species of insects on Earth, but this ancient insect is unlike anything Poinar has ever seen.

But that didn’t discourage Poinar who created a new order in which to categorise the insect. In fact, it’s these types of confusing discoveries that he lives for:

“There’s about 35 insect orders, and they cover everything in general very well. And so to find something that doesn’t fit in there is a rare occasion — a rare event — and something that I was really overjoyed with.” -Poinar.

Poinar is an entomologist and professor at Oregon State University.

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