March 3, 2012 by staff
Dinosaur Flea, Massive Jurassic fleas feasted on dinosaur blood with stout sucking siphons, according to a study published in the journal Nature Wednesday. The massive Jurassic fleas measured approximately one inch long, researchers reveal.
“That’s a beast,” said Michael Engel, one of the study’s authors and a palaeoentomologist at the University of Kansas, according to The Associated Press. “It was a big critter. I can’t even imagine coming home and finding my miniature schnauzer with one or more of these things crawling around on it,” Mr. Engel added.
The massive Jurassic fleas were many times bigger than modern day fleas. While the ancient fleas measured nearly an inch long, modern day fleas are typically 2-3 millimeters, according to How It Works Magazine.
Modern day fleas have a variety of hosts from which to choose. Cat, dog and human fleas prefer the blood of their respective hosts, although these types of fleas can also be found sucking the blood of other mammals. The massive Jurassic flea had a much larger host, but the physical makeup of its mouthparts gave it the perfect set of tools for dining on the blood of dinosaurs.
The team of researchers, led by Andre Nel, from the Museum of Natural History in Paris, discovered fossils of the massive fleas from the Middle Jurassic and Early Cretaceous periods in Daohugou, northeast China.
By carefully studying the physical features of the massive Jurassic fleas, researchers were able to determine that their primary meal was dinosaur blood. The physical features of modern day fleas are better designed for feeding on the blood of birds and mammals.
“The mouthparts are certainly overkill for piercing the hides of early mammals and birds,” Mr. Engel told Nature, according to The Register. “It really appears as though they were specialised for working their way into some heavy hides, such as those on dinosaurs,” he added.
“They exhibit many defining features of fleas but retain primitive traits such as non-jumping hindlegs,” the study’s authors wrote in “Diverse transitional giant fleas from the Mesozoic era of China,” which was accepted by Nature on January 6th.
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