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Giant fleas that bugged feathery dinosaurs and hairy pterosaurs
From: Ben Creisler
OK, at the risk of "ticking" off certain DML members, I am posting
this new article about parasites that likely preyed on feathered
dinosaurs and hairy pterosaurs. I think that the topic IS relevant to
Diying Huang, Michael S. Engel, Chenyang Cai, Hao Wu & André Nel (2012)
Diverse transitional giant fleas from the Mesozoic era of China.
Nature (advance online publication)
Fleas are one of the major lineages of ectoparasitic insects and are
now highly specialized for feeding on the blood of birds or mammals.
This has isolated them among holometabolan insect orders, although
they derive from the Antliophora (scorpionflies and true flies). Like
most ectoparasitic lineages, their fossil record is meagre and
confined to Cenozoic-era representatives of modern families, so that
we lack evidence of the origins of fleas in the Mesozoic era. The
origins of the first recognized Cretaceous stem-group flea, Tarwinia,
remains highly controversial. Here we report fossils of the oldest
definitive fleas—giant forms from the Middle Jurassic and Early
Cretaceous periods of China. They exhibit many defining features of
fleas but retain primitive traits such as non-jumping hindlegs. More
importantly, all have stout and elongate sucking siphons for piercing
the hides of their hosts, implying that these fleas may be rooted
among the pollinating ‘long siphonate’ scorpionflies of the Mesozoic.
Their special morphology suggests that their earliest hosts were hairy
or feathered ‘reptilians’, and that they radiated to mammalian and
bird hosts later in the Cenozoic.