Skip to comments.Jurassic Pain: Giant Flea-like Insects Plagued Dinosaurs 165 Million Years Ago
Posted on 05/16/2012 7:37:47 PM PDT by null and void
This ancient "flea-like" insect, Pseudopulex jurassicus, lived 165 million years ago. It used a long proboscis to feed on the blood of dinosaurs, with a bite that would have been unusually painful. Illustration by Wang Cheng, courtesy of Oregon State University
It takes a gutsy insect to sneak up on a huge dinosaur while it sleeps, crawl onto its soft underbelly and give it a bite that might have felt like a needle going in but giant "flea-like" animals, possibly the oldest of their type ever discovered, probably did just that. And a few actually lived through the experience, based on the discovery by Chinese scientists of remarkable fossils of these creatures, announced in Current Biology.
These flea-like animals, similar but not identical to modern fleas, were probably 10 times the size of a flea you might find crawling on the family dog with an extra-painful bite to match.
"These were insects much larger than modern fleas and, from the size of their proboscis, we can tell they would have been mean," said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus of zoology at Oregon State University, who wrote a commentary on this find in the same journal.
"You wouldn't talk much about the good old days if you got bit by this insect," Poinar said. "It would have felt about like a hypodermic needle going in a flea shot, if not a flu shot. We can be thankful our modern fleas are not nearly this big."
Poinar, who is an international expert in ancient and extinct insect life forms, said it's possible that the soft-bodied, flea-like insects found in these fossils from Inner Mongolia are the evolutionary ancestors of modern fleas, but most likely they belong to a separate and now extinct lineage.
Called Pseudopulex jurassicus and Pseudopulex magnus, they had bodies that were more flat, like a bedbug or tick, and long claws that could reach over scales on the skin of dinosaurs so they could hold onto them tightly while sucking blood. Modern fleas are more laterally compressed and have shorter antennae, and are able to move quickly through the fur or feathers of their victims.
"These are really well-preserved fossils that give us another glimpse of life into the really distant past, the Cretaceous and Jurassic," said Poinar, who has also studied "younger" fleas from 40 to 50 million years ago preserved in amber.
All true fleas are adapted to feeding on warm-blooded vertebrates, Poinar said, and today 94 percent of the 2,300 known species attack mammals, while the remainder feed on birds. But the unusual characteristics and abilities of the flea-like animals found in these fossils lead scientists to believe their prey were some of the biggest kids on the block dinosaurs in which they could have fed on the softer skin between scales.
Modern fleas, the report noted, have done plenty of damage. Hardly a dog or cat alive has escaped their attack, and they brought mankind such diseases as bubonic plague, which has killed 75 million people.
But their bite itself, at least, didn't feel like a needle going in, by an insect that wasn't even afraid of a dinosaur.
eeEEEwwwWWWW ouch ouch ouch!
Fleas. I hate those nasty little f’rs.
Kinda gives a whole new meaning to, “May your armpits be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels” doesn’t it? :-)
Maybe the dinos were happy to go extinct, with life being an unending blight of biting super-fleas.
In order to be a proper scientific article, it needs to end with...
These glorious insects were completely wiped out by catastrophic climate change.
LOL!! You beat me to it!
Democrats! Still bugging society today. We need a super-Orkin Man on Nov 6th.
Giant Flea-like Insects Plagued DinosaursCausing them to fart and warm the planet.
Oh no!!! You fools! That’s how we got “Jurassic Park!”
|GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach|
Enormous, painful bloodsuckers?
Sounds a lot like congress.
Well, articles don't just grow on trees. SOMEBODY has to pay for them!
... and, naturally, that somebody is us thru federal grants.
I bet it would have been quite a sight to see the dinos scratching.
Who funded this research if they don't mention climate change?
The dinos probably had the same problem as living critters — inability to reach large areas to shoo or squash the pests.
Like those critters that dropped-off the Cloverleaf monster and then ate soldiers?