Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ancient 'Bizarre' Parasite Had Only-Know Sucking Plate

A parasite they swam the freshwater lakes of Inner Mongolia 165 million years ago had a thorax formed like a sucking plate; no other known parasite has been known to have this type of sucker.

The parasite, which was a two-centimeter-long fly larva, used its mouthparts to hold onto and suck the blood of giant salamanders, a University of Bonn news release reported. The parasite had a tiny head compared to the rest of its body, a giant sucking plate, and caterpillar-like legs. The researchers found fossils indicating the freshwater lake was filled with salamanders during the Jurassic.

"There scientists had also found around 300,000 diverse and exceptionally preserved fossil insects", reports the 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 Humboldt Foundation, said in the news release.

The ancient parasite is called, "Qiyia jurassica:" the world "Qiyia" means "bizarre" in Chinese. Fossils of the creature were believed to be so well-preserved because of the fine-grained mudstone it was embedded in. The conditions in the groundwater could have also prevented bacteria from eating away at the fossil.

"No insect exists today with a comparable body shape," Doctor Bo Wang said in the news release.

"On the other hand, there are almost unlimited finds of [fossilized] salamanders, which were found by the thousand," Wang said.. "The extreme adaptations in the design of Qiyia jurassica show the extent to which organisms can [specialize] in the course of evolution."

These larvae may have been unpleasant for the ancient salamanders, but they are not believed to have killed their hosts.

"A parasite only sometimes kills its host when it has achieved its goal, for example, reproduction or feeding," Doctor Torsten Wappler of the Steinmann-Institut of the University of Bonn, said in the news release.

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