Science

Ancient Dinosaurs Were Covered In Blood Sucking Ticks

A new discovery has revealed that ancient feathered dinosaurs dealt with ticks, just like modern animals.

ticks
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Ancient Ticks

In pieces of amber from Myanmar dating back 99 million years, parasites with similar characteristics to modern ticks were found. Most notable about this finding is that one of these ancient ticks was entangled with a dinosaur feather and found in a dinosaur nest, giving evidence that featured dinosaurs were infested with these parasites.

Scientists have stated in the journal Nature Communications that this is the first direct evidence discovered that indicates ticks fed on the blood of dinosaurs. co-researcher Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History elaborated on the foundings in a discussion with BBC News:

“Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs; now we have direct evidence of it…This paper represents a very good example of the kind of detailed information that can be extracted from amber fossils.” In addition to the evidence that ticks fed on dinosaur blood, the organism found in the fossilized tree resin is a new species, named Deinocroton draculi — “Dracula’s terrible tick.”

Although this scientific discovery is significant, we unfortunately cannot learn much about dinosaurs from amber specimens. Due to the complexity of the tree resin, it’s difficult to extract any sort of DNA from fossils preserved within. However, we now have a little bit of a clearer picture of the daily lives of these feathered dinosaurs, and the fact that they dealt with parasites just as modern animals do.

Dr Pérez-de la Fuente spoke more of the significance of the findings, explaining that “The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight…So although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on, the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird, as these appeared much later in theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence.”

Further Evidence

In addition to this extraordinary find, researchers also found further evidence that these ticks fed on dinosaurs. Beetles were known to live within the nests of feathered dinosaurs, and the presence of residue from these beetles were found attached to two of the ticks.

“The simultaneous entrapment of two external parasites – the ticks – is extraordinary, and can be best explained if they had a nest-inhabiting ecology as some modern ticks do, living in the host’s nest or in their own nest nearby,” stated Dr David Grimaldi, another researcher on the study.

This further suggests that the ancient parasites were another presence around where dinosaurs made their home.

The combination of this evidence suggests that these “Dracula ticks” have been sucking the blood of dinosaurs for around 100 million years. While dinosaurs went extinct around 66 million years ago, ticks continued to thrive and are a rather annoying presence to this day.