Scientists may find a fossil of a tardigrade in amber once in a lifetime. Biologists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology have succeeded. This tardigrade died about 16 million years ago in resin. The creature is so unique, it’s been given a new name.

Prehistoric Find in Fossilized Resin

Tardigrades are known for their evolutionary adaptations, surviving in extreme conditions, from cold to heat to radiation. Scientists consider them almost immortal.

Image credit: Phillip Barden, Harvard / NJIT.

In a piece of fossilized resin, scientists have discovered a miniature creature that got stuck in the resin about 16 million years ago. The half-millimeter-long fossil is remarkable not only for the rarity of this discovery but also because it is a new species and a new genus – Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus.

The fossil tardigrade may have looked like nowadays ones but only until scientists examined its insides. “Of all the currently known and formally named tardigrade fossils preserved in amber (three so far, including this one), this is the first fossil for which we have been able to visualize its internal structure,” said Marc Mapalo, a doctoral student at Harvard University.

When Will Scientists Find Next Tardigrade?

According to co-author Phil Barden of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, “the discovery of a fossil tardigrade in amber is really a once-in-a-generation event.”

Image credit: Mapalo et al., doi:10.1098/rspb.2021.1760.

It’s possible that other species of these organisms could be found in amber. Barden says it’s not entirely likely – in fact, it’s similarly challenging to finding a diamond in river gravel – you must shuffle through a ton of gravel to find a small diamond.

“You could spend the rest of your life searching through amber and never find one,” Barden said. He considers this discovery a huge stroke of luck, not only for the tardigrade but for his career.

Source and credit:,  Image credit: Holly Sullivan.