Scientists discover prehistoric 'mold pigs'
By T.K. Randall
October 14, 2019 · 7 comments
Mold pigs are so-named due to their penchant for eating fungi. Image Credit: G. Poinar et al.
A previously unknown species of microscopic creature has been discovered perfectly preserved in amber.
Dating back to the Cenozoic period 30 million years ago, these previously unseen microinvertebrates are not at all dissimilar to today's notoriously tough tardigrades (or 'water bears').
Dubbed Sialomorpha dominicana
, the species was discovered in a chunk of amber from the Dominican Republic by palaeobiologist George Poinar Jr. from Oregon State University and invertebrate zoologist Diane Nelson from East Tennessee State University.
They nicknamed it 'mold pig' due to its porcine nature and diet of fungi.
Poinar's work on fossils trapped in amber is particularly notable as his research back in the 1980s was the inspiration behind several of the concepts in Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park
"It took me many days, weeks, and months to examine [the specimens], and then under the compound microscope," he said of this latest finding.
"They are as small as the smallest tardigrades, and they have eight legs like tardigrades. However they possess mandibles but no claws, whereas tardigrades have claws and stylet mouthparts."
Whether mold pigs were as hardy as today's tardigrades however remains unclear.
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