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New transitional "pterosaur" fleas from Early Cretaceous of China

From: Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

Taiping Gao, Chungkun Shih, Alexandr P. Rasnitsyn, Xing Xu, Shuo Wang
& Dong Ren (2013)
New Transitional Fleas from China Highlighting Diversity of Early
Cretaceous Ectoparasitic Insects.
Current Biology (advance online publication)

Fleas are a group of highly specialized blood-feeding ectoparasites
whose early evolutionary history is poorly known. Although several
recent discoveries have shed new light on the origin of the group, a
considerable gap exists between stem fleas and crown fleas. Here we
report a new transitional flea, Saurophthirus exquisitus sp. nov.,
assigned to a new family Saurophthiridae fam. nov., from the Lower
Cretaceous Yixian Formation of northeastern China. Saurophthirids are
more similar to crown fleas than other stem fleas in having a
relatively small body size, relatively short and slender
piercing-sucking stylet mouthparts, comparably short and compact
antennae, rows of short and stiff bristles on the thorax, and highly
elongated legs. The new finding greatly improves our understanding of
the morphological transition to the highly specialized body plan of
extant fleas. However, saurophthirids also display several features
unknown in other fleas, and some of these features are suggestive of a
possible ectoparasitic relationship to contemporaneous pterosaurs,
though other possibilities exist. The new fossils, in conjunction with
previous discoveries, highlight a broad diversity of ectoparasitic
insects in the mid-Mesozoic.