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Huge Jurassic Fleas May Have Fed On Dinosaurs

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the we're-gonna-need-a-bigger-collar dept.

Science 85

ananyo writes "Primitive fleas were built to sup on dinosaur blood in the Jurassic period, more than 150 million years ago. The potential host–parasite relationship has been uncovered thanks to a set of beautifully preserved fossils found in China. Today, the varied group of parasitic insects known as fleas frequently infests mammals and birds. But little is known about their origins. Researchers have now extended the history of the parasites by at least 60 million years. Whereas modern fleas range from 1 to 10 millimeters in length, the Jurassic and Cretaceous species were between 8 and 21 millimeters. The Jurassic and Cretaceous fleas also lacked the spring-legged, jumping specializations of modern species, and their siphoning mouthparts were armored structures studded with saw-like projections, unlike the smooth jaws of modern fleas."

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85 comments

Big (2)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202829)

Is there anything from that era that wasn't super sized? Are the Q slowly changing the gravitational constant of the universe over time? TELL ME!

Re:Big (5, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202863)

I think I read bacteria were the size of pancakes. And pancakes were the size of the manhole covers. Libraries of Congress were smaller then though.

Re:Big (4, Insightful)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203729)

Yes, but the size of a VW Bug has always been a constant, thus explaining its popularity as a unit of comparative measurement.

Re:Big (1)

crispylinetta (1639533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39207441)

How come Slashdot never gets Slashdotted?

If I had mod points, I would rate your sig Insightful. So every time you post anything, Boom - Insightful. :)

Re:Big (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39202873)

Expanding Earth Theory [youtube.com]

Forget the silly commentary. Just watch the video. Mind blowing!!!

Re:Big (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202897)

Is there anything from that era that wasn't super sized?

Fast food meals?

Are the Q slowly changing the gravitational constant of the universe over time?

Oh look, the monkey is capable of primitive thinking!

Re:Big (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203949)

Fast food meals?

Some of those bastards were pretty fast... and just about everything was food.

Oh look, the monkey is capable of primitive thinking!

LOL. Being in the IT department we actually have a poster with that title :)

Bet you'd like that (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39202937)

You'd like it if it were like Giant Land in Super Mario Bros. 3, wouldn't you, faget? Giant dongs all over the fucking place.

Re:Big (3, Insightful)

WTFmonkey (652603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202955)

More O2 and CO2, at double the atmospheric pressure of today, so higher partial pressures of oxygen and fewer problems getting oxygen to the extremities. I think.

Re:Big (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203081)

Oh now wait a second that is not going to help with square/cube law bone strength side effects, unless you're messing around with the gravitational constant.

Knowing how rough farm livestock has it, I've always wondered how dinosaurs survived... like tip one over and its dead, all bones smashed. The TV imaginative animations that show dinos fighting like wolves might not be terribly realistic if simply tipping over means all ribs smashed.

Re:Big (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203569)

Oh now wait a second that is not going to help with square/cube law bone strength side effects, unless you're messing around with the gravitational constant.

Fleas are insects (I think. They're creepy crawly critters of one kind or another), so they don't have bones.

One may make a reasonable assumption that it works the same way for a chitinous exoskeleton. But given that large insects are fairly common in the fossil record, it would seem that something other than mechanical factors is stunting current arthropods. Thankfully.

Re:Big (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39203875)

Stunted? Who's stunted?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/02/24/147367644/six-legged-giant-finds-secret-hideaway-hides-for-80-years?ps=cprs

Re:Big (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39204023)

That is a gross misunderstanding of the square cube law and it's application to these large species.

Seriously dude, did you take ANY science after 8th grade? or are you from Kansas?

Re:Big (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#39204911)

You might not have noticed, but all the big dinosaurs are long dead. It's probably because they didn't work that well. Only the little ones, like chickens, survived.

Re:Big (4, Interesting)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206469)

Actually, they worked amazingly well. Humans or even primates have yet to come close to the length of time they dominated the planet. Only when circumstances changed drastically, they were unable to survive.

Humanity is ever trying to close the gap with the dinosaurs in that area but failing so far. However, the current experiment in geo-engineering are going to be quite helpful towards the goal of catching up with the dinosaurs.

Re:Big (1)

Physician (861339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39204831)

There were giants in the earth in those days [antediluvian]; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. Genesis 6:4

Re:Big (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206295)

Partly it appears oxygen content in the atmosphere was higher then, so it took a lot less effort to be large.

Then many of the types of plants we have today evolved (until then it was all ferns and trees), drank up a lot of that oxygen and converted it to carbon dioxide until we got the oxygen levels we have today.

Let me be the first to suggest... (0)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202855)

...finding some of those fleas trapped in amber, harvest the dino DNA therein, clone a zoo of dinos, and start an amusement park off the coast of Costa Rica. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Let me be the first to suggest... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202889)

And if something goes wrong, just hop in your phone box and go back to fix what went wrong!

Amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39202861)

But I'm more amazed at the fact that there's a freakin' picture with the article.

Paleontologist are faget (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39202867)

These giant flea are made up so that paleo-faget don't feel so bad about the crabs they get from anal buttsex. I guess it understandable that there faget since they spend they're day looking at fossil feces (fagets like feces) and dreaming of giant dinosaur cocks.

Huge? (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202869)

Written as "huge" I was expecting 8 to 21 cm not 8 to 21 mm. Sooo unimpressed.

I'm told you guys in Florida have cockroaches the size of dachshunds, that kind of scale is what I was expecting.

Re:Huge? (2)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202921)

If you've ever had an animal get fleas, you'll cringe at the thought of a 2.1cm long flea!

Re:Huge? (1)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206477)

If you've ever come back from vacation and got jumped by a few million fleas, desperate for some blood, you'll cringe even more.

Oh cool, I think I just may have found the scenario for "Jurassic Park IV" :)

Re:Huge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39203027)

Mine is about 22 cm. I bet that impresses you.

Re:Huge? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203305)

I'm told you guys in Florida have cockroaches the size of dachshunds,

    That's OK, we got dachsunds the size of Buicks.

Re:Huge? (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203353)

I'm told you guys in Florida have cockroaches the size of dachshunds,

That's OK, we got dachsunds the size of Buicks.

and Buicks the size of ......hell, I got nuthin'...

Re:Huge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39204501)

Exactly right. We use them in place of skateboards.

Re:Huge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205065)

dude, 21mm is bigger than ants. how big does that make contemporary ants?

Re:Huge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39209115)

Dude, if I ever saw a 2 fucking cm, blood-sucking parasite crawling on my skin, I'd be worried.
Whoever the douche was that tagged the story !huge needs to get some perspective.

why dinosaurs (and their fleas) were huge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39202917)

Smaller is more competitive; everything shrunk as resources dwindled. In the future, we'll all be 3' high...

Re:why dinosaurs (and their fleas) were huge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39203763)

nice troll, its well known average height has been increasing for decades and their used to be pigmy humans.

NY Bedbugs (1, Funny)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39202961)

You think that's bad. You haven't seen NY Bedbugs. Sure, they look like a normal bedbug. But these guys really take in blood. When finished, they waddle off the size of a basketball and still manage to ninja themselves out of site. You know you've been bitten when you feel light headed. But you know what the worst part of it is? You don't get paid for that "blood donation" and they always come back for more.

*Jurassic Park theme* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39203137)

Were any of these fleas preserved in amber?

Were these hosts to parasitic modern-sized fleas? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39203273)

Big fleas have little fleas
upon their backs to bite 'em;
and little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.

Reminds me of an SF short story from decades ago (1)

bfwebster (90513) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203349)

Can't remember the name of the story, but (much like Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder", though in a humorous vein) it involved a time traveler going back to hunt T-Rexes. He shoots and kills one, then strides towards the T-Rex to take a trophy...only to be met by a multitude of large external parasites abandoning the T-Rex and looking for a new host. Doesn't end well for the hunter. Anyone remember the name of this story?

And, yeah, 21 mm may not sound like much, but think of dealing with a horde of inch-long fleas, and that may bring a different image to mind. ..bruce..

Re:Reminds me of an SF short story from decades ag (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39203455)

You're thinking of "Poor Little Warrior" by Brian Aldiss. One of my favorites.

But it wasn't humorous at all. The protagonist is in a severe depression, not sure he wants to live, and tries this time safari to snap out of it.

After he shoots the brontosaur, its parasites swarm him, snipping off his fingers, shredding his chest, etc. It takes a minute or two for him to die. Very nasty. Not really funny. But a good story.

Re:Reminds me of an SF short story from decades ag (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203605)

Those are shit parasites. The first rule of being a parasite is you don't kill your host. The second rule is that you can break the first rule, but only if you've got another host lined up.

Re:Reminds me of an SF short story from decades ag (2)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39204261)

Hey, they had a host lined up, but their assumption that whatever killed the Tyrannosaur would be big enough for them was off. Give them a break, they're bugs!

Re:Reminds me of an SF short story from decades ag (0)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203583)

Brian Aldiss I believe.

Re:Reminds me of an SF short story from decades ag (1)

bfwebster (90513) | more than 2 years ago | (#39209691)

Thanks -- you're right. It's "Poor Little Warrior" (1958) by Brian Aldiss. I suspect it was a tongue-in-cheek response to Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" (1952).

Re:Reminds me of an SF short story from decades ag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39204585)

Can't remember the name of the story, but (much like Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder", though in a humorous vein) it involved a time traveler going back to hunt T-Rexes. He shoots and kills one, then strides towards the T-Rex to take a trophy...only to be met by a multitude of large external parasites abandoning the T-Rex and looking for a new host. Doesn't end well for the hunter. Anyone remember the name of this story?

And, yeah, 21 mm may not sound like much, but think of dealing with a horde of inch-long fleas, and that may bring a different image to mind. ..bruce..

I think it's "Poor Little Warrior!" by Brian Aldiss. It was the first thing I thought of, too.

-Gareth

Who wrote this paper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39203483)

The paper's authors are listed as Huang, then Engel, and others. Keeping in mind that the specimens were found in China. Yet this story somehow describes the authorship as "Engel and others". Huh.

I call it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39203671)

The Ex-Wife.

And, if you're wondering ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39204257)

... what happened to these massive parasites, apparently they evolved into Chris Dodd.

Modern-day fleas up to 1cm in length? (3, Informative)

harryjohnston (1118069) | more than 2 years ago | (#39204983)

"Whereas modern fleas range from 1 to 10 millimeters in length ..."

Whoa, 1cm sounds pretty darned big for a flea. That's about the same size as a typical bee. Wikipedia says fleas reach up to 3.3mm which seems more reasonable to me.

Anybody know of a modern-day flea species that actually reaches 10mm? (What do they live on, elephants?)

Re:Modern-day fleas up to 1cm in length? (1)

Truedat (2545458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208707)

Whoa, 1cm sounds pretty darned big for a flea. That's about the same size as a typical bee.

That can't be right [places thumb and forefinger about a cm apart], let me check that. Ok so I couldn't persuade a bee to let me measure him but I did find a link that says they are double that at about 2cm: http://nature.berkeley.edu/urbanbeegardens/research_regional.html [berkeley.edu]

Jees, I can't believe I looked that fact up, pathetic!! :-)

Re:Modern-day fleas up to 1cm in length? (1)

harryjohnston (1118069) | more than 2 years ago | (#39213497)

Yeah, you're probably right. Let me rephrase: that's about the size of a typical housefly [wikipedia.org]. I still think it's kinda on the large size for a flea.

1 to 10 mm???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205653)

I think somebody dropped a decimal point somewhere.
10 mm = 1 cm = . 4 inches ! ! ? ?
So 1 to 10 mm would be a range of .04 to .4 inches.
Where can you find a flea that is almost half an inch?
According to the wiki site, "Fleas are 1.5 to 3.3 mm long/"
Link here [wikipedia.org]

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