Dinosaurs Carried Monster Fleas
March 1, 2012

Dinosaurs Carried Monster Fleas

Researchers have come across the fossils of gigantic fleas in China. Diying Huang of the Nanjing Institute of Geology told the Associated Press (AP) they were lucky to come across the specimens. The fleas were discovered in a Chinese fossil market where they discovered they came from Daohugou in northeastern China, where a fossil bed from 165 million years was discovered.

The fossil bed preserved the fleas in a brownish film of volcanic ash with grains of rock so fine that the most minute details such as antennae and other details could be seen.

These ancient fleas were very different from the modern variety. Nature.com notes that the fleas were between 8 and 21 millimeters, almost ten times the size of modern fleas that range from 1 to 10 millimeters.

The fleas are also different in that these ancient monsters had not yet developed their spring-jumping mechanism. Michael Engel, a palaeoentomologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, said these insects must have been experts in ambushing their hosts. He speculates they may have caught their meals by “hiding in the periphery and then scrambling onto the host for brief periods to feed before bolding again.”

The researchers wonder what the prey for these monster insects were. Not only were the insect´s bodies supersized, but the fleas mouthparts were designed to work into thick hides, possibly dinosaurs. Their mouths contained armored structures studded with saw-like projections. Modern fleas have a smooth probiscus.

George Poinar, from Oregon State University in Corvallis speculates that the fleas “could have attacked dinosaurs or possibly pterosaurs.”

The research was published in the journal Nature.


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