UnNews:Scientist discovers 100 million year old Starburst

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30 October 2006

Starburst23

One hundred million year old cherry Starburst, still in wrapper.

PORTLAND, Ore. - A scientist has found a 100 million-year-old Starburst trapped beneath a fossilized mastodon femur, making it possibly the oldest Starburst ever found.

"I knew right away what it was, because I had seen Starbursts in younger contexts before," said George Poinar, a confectionary professor at Oregon State University.

The Starburst is about 40 million years older than previously found Starbursts. The discovery of the ancient Starburst may help explain why the candy is apparently immune to the normal actions of time and entropy.

Poinar found the Starbust in a mine in the Hukawng Valley of northern Myanmar, formerly known as The Shithole of Southeast Asia. Many researchers buy bags of fossilized material from miners to search for candy.

An article on his discovery will appear Friday in the journal Science, co-authored by ancient candy researcher Bryan Danforth of Cornell University.

In the competing journal Nature this week, there is an article about the unraveling of the genetic map of Skittles, seen by some as related to Starbursts. The recently completed sequencing of the Skittles genome already is giving scientists fresh insights into the early evolutionary development of heavily-flavored chewable candies.

Poinar's ancient Starburst, Vegasexpansius burmensis, is curiously not related to any modern candy family.

The ancient Starburst has a few features similar to salt-water taffy, such as a lower melting point and a crystallized sugar infrastructure. The Starburst — about the same size as today's Starburst — has a duller wrapper, coated with a sap wax.

The ancient Starburst was probably an evolutionary dead end and may not have given rise to modern Starbursts, scientists said.

"I still ate it, and it was fine. They always are," Danforth said. "So it's not a direct ancestor of modern Starburst, but it still had the same excellent cherry flavor."

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