Bizarre Parasite from the Jurassic

Related Articles

Related Articles

Researchers from the University of Bonn and from China have discovered a fossil fly larva with a spectacular sucking apparatus.

Approximately 165 million years ago, a magnificent parasite called the freshwater lakes of present-day Inner Mongolia (China) its home: A fly larva with a thorax formed entirely like a sucking plate. With it, the parasite had the ability to adhere to salamanders and suck their blood with its mouthparts, which were formed like a sting. To date there is no other known insect that is equipped with a similar specialized design. The international scientific team is now presenting its findings in the journal “eLIFE”.

The parasite, an elongate fly larva approximately two centimeters in length, was subject to extreme changes over the course of evolution: The head is tiny in comparison to the body, tube-shaped with piercer-like mouthparts at the front. The mid-body (thorax) has been completely transformed underneath into an enormous sucking plate; the hind body (abdomen) has legs similar to that of a caterpillar. The international research team believes that this strange animal is a parasite that lived in a region containing volcanoes and lakes, an area now known as northeastern China, around 165 million years ago. In this fresh water habitat, the parasite crawled onto salamanders passing by and attached itself with its sucking plate, proceeding to penetrate the thin skin of the amphibians in order to suck blood from them.

 

“The parasite lived the life of Reilly”, says Prof. Jes Rust from the Steinmann Institute for Geology, Mineralogy and Palaeontology of the University of Bonn. The reason being, there were many salamanders present in the lakes, as fossil finds in the same location near Ningcheng in Inner Mongolia (China) have revealed. “There scientists had also found around 300,000 diverse and exceptionally preserved fossil insects”, reports Chinese scientist Dr. Bo Wang, who is researching in palaeontology at the University of Bonn as a PostDoc with sponsorship provided by the Alexander von Huboldt Foundation. The spectacular fly larva, which has received the scientific name “Qiya jurassica”, was a surprise find. “Qiyia” in Chinese means “bizarre”; “jurassica” refers to the Jurassic period to which the fossils belong.

A fine-grained mudstone ensured the good state of preservation of the fossil

For the international team of scientists from the University of Bonn, the Linyi University (China), the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (China), the University of Kansas (USA) and the Natural History Museum in London (UK), the insect larva is a brilliant find: “No insect exists today with a comparable body shape”, says Dr. Bo Wang. The bizarre larva from the Jurassic period has remained so well preserved to the present day is partly due to the fine-grained mudstone where the animals were embedded. “The finer the sediment, the better the details are reproduced in the fossils”, explains Dr Torsten Wappler of the Steinmann-Institute of the University of Bonn. In addition to this, the condition in the groundwater also prevented decomposition by bacteria.

Amazingly, no fossil fish have been found in the freshwater lakes of the Jurassic epoch in China. “On the other hand, there are almost unlimited finds of fossilised salamanders, which were found by the thousand”, says Dr. Bo Wang. The unusual ecology may explain why the strange bizarre parasites survived in the lakes: fish are predators of fly larvae. “The extreme adaptations in the design of Qiyia jurassica show the extent to which organisms can specialise in the course of evolution”, says Prof. Rust.

lake

As unpleasant as the parasites would have been for the salamanders of the time, their deaths were not as a result of the fly larvae. “A parasite only sometimes kills its host when it has achieved its goal, for example, reproduction or feeding “, Dr Wappler reports. If Qiyia jurassica had passed through the larvae stage of development, it would have grown into an adult insect after completion of metamorphosis. The scientists are yet to discover the information that will allow them to speculate what the adult insect would have looked like, or how it would have lived and behaved.

 

Contributing Source: University of Bonn

Header Image Source: WikiPedia

Body Image Source: WikiPedia

 

 

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Medieval Sword Found at Bottom of Oder River

An almost complete medieval sword has been recovered from the Oder River in Poland.

Inside the Ice Giants of Space

A new theoretical method paves the way to modelling the interior of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune, thanks to computer simulations on the water contained within them.

Innovative Method Opens up New Perspectives for Reconstructing Climatic Conditions of Past Eras

Corals precipitate their calcareous skeletons (calcium carbonate) from seawater. Over thousands of years, vast coral reefs form due to the deposition of this calcium carbonate.

New Study Supports Predictions That the Arctic Could be Free of Sea Ice by 2035

A new study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, supports predictions that the Arctic could be free of sea ice by 2035.

Rare ‘Boomerang’ Earthquake Observed Along Atlantic Ocean Fault Line

Scientists have tracked a 'boomerang' earthquake in the ocean for the first time, providing clues about how they could cause devastation on land.

The Evolution of Colourful Feathers Shines Light on the Missing Link in Evolution by Natural Selection

There's a paradox within the theory of evolution: The life forms that exist today are here because they were able to change when past environments disappeared. Yet, organisms evolve to fit into specific environmental niches.

Study Confirms the Power of Deinosuchus & its ‘Teeth the Size of Bananas’

A new study, revisiting fossil specimens from the enormous crocodylian, Deinosuchus, has confirmed that the beast had teeth "the size of bananas", capable to take down even the very largest of dinosaurs.

The Lost Town of Trellech

Trellech is a small rural village in south-east Wales, but during the 13th century, it was one of the largest medieval towns in all of Wales.

Popular stories

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.

The Real Dracula?

“Dracula”, published in 1897 by the Irish Author Bram Stoker, introduced audiences to the infamous Count and his dark world of sired vampiric minions.