General, Research, Technology

What parasites lived in dinosaur feathers?

Today we know that many dinosaurs werecovered with feathers, but it was not always like that. From childhood we were told about giant reptiles, and cinema depicted them only as scaly monsters. Agree, after this, imagine a formidable and frightening creature covered with feathers from head to toe is not so simple. Reality, as always, turned out to be far more inventive than we thought. Researchers recently discovered amber, in which a dinosaur feather stuck with unknown insects stuck. Experts estimated the find's age at 99 million years, which means that feathered monsters ate parasites unknown to science, whose appearance strongly resembles lice.

It looks like a parasite unknown to science, stuck in amber

Before the fall of an asteroid on our planet, 65 millionyears ago, dinosaurs were the rightful owners of this world. However, do not think that the parasites bypassed them - as shown by the results of a study published in the journal Nature Communications, tiny parasites appeared to feed on dinosaur feathers.

The first parasites that ate feathers

Tiny insects stuck in tar about 99million years ago. In small pieces of Burmese amber, scientists discovered a pair of feathers, and next to them 10 parasites similar to lice. Traces of a bite are clearly visible on one of the feathers. Researchers are convinced that this is the world's first find of insects that fed on feathers. At least of all reported cases. The discovery pushes the origin of such insects by about 55 million years. However, previous studies have shown that in the past, many animals suffered from blood-sucking ticks.

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Having carefully studied the find, scientists came tothe conclusion that insects belong to a previously unknown species of Mesophthirus engeli, and are nymphs - an early stage in the development of insects. The bodies of the discovered nymphs were tiny and wingless, and their length reached 0.14–0.23 mm. At the same time, at least four teeth were observed on the jaws of insects. Scientists believe that adults would reach a length of about 0.5 mm. This puzzled the researchers, since previously discovered insects of that era were much larger. Perhaps for this reason, while studying fossils, experts have still not found ancient lice.

And this is Dracula - a blood-sucking tick that feasted on dinosaurs 99 million years ago. Researchers discovered it in amber in 2017.

However, insect detection even inancient amber - a rarity. The team studied up to 1000 specimens containing the preserved feathers of birds or dinosaurs before finding insects. The discovery showed that the behavior of insects when feeding feathers arose, at least in the middle of the Cretaceous. Obviously, the parasites fed on the feathers of dinosaurs, as well as the feathers of primitive birds. As for the two feathers 12.7 mm and 13.6 mm long, the researchers suggest that they probably descended from two species of dinosaurs, one of which was pennaraptoran - a bird-like theropod - although this cannot be said with certainty.

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Anyway, the first is receivedevidence that feathered dinosaurs suffered from parasites that chewed their feathers. The damage done to the feathers by these tiny insects showed parallels with the damage done by modern parasites, and research has shown that such insects developed along with plumage.