Giant fleas feasted on dinosaur blood in the Jurassic era, according to a new study. At nearly 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, these bloodsuckers were eight times larger than their modern-day counterparts.
Fleas, turns out, were tough back then. The Jurassic fleas had long, straw-like mouths with serrated edges to help them bite into tough dinosaur hide, researchers said.
The mouthparts are certainly overkill for piercing the hides of early mammals and birds, Michael Engel, co-author of the study and an entomology curator at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, told Nature. The journal published the study Thursday. It really appears as though they were specialized for working their way into some heavy hides, such as those on dinosaurs, he said.
Engel told The Associated Press that the flea was a beast.
It was a big critter, he said. I can't even imagine coming home and finding my miniature schnauzer with one or more of these things crawling around on it.
Unlike the fleas of today, the Jurassic fleas had poorly developed legs rendering them incapable of jumping. Modern fleas can jump up to 200 times their height.
''They were not jumping insects, Andre Nel, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, who was not involved in the study, told The Sydney Morning Herald. They were probably creeping between the feathers or the fur of animals they came across, he said.
Diying Huang, lead researcher and a paleontologist from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, found the first fossil at a market in China, according to The Associated Press. He mentioned the find to someone at his hotel who directed Huang to the famous Daohugou fossil bed, where he found eight other Jurassic fleas preserved in volcanic ash dating back to between 125 million and 165 million years ago.