Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient Tick Found In New Jersey Leaves Experts Guessing

Date:
March 28, 2001
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
A 90-million-year-old tick recently found in the heart of New Jersey has left entomologists scratching their heads. The tick is the oldest representative of the order Parasitiformes, increasing the order's age by 50 million years, said Hans Klompen, an assistant professor of entomology at Ohio State University.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A 90-million-year-old tick recently found in the heart of New Jersey has left entomologists scratching their heads.

The tick is the oldest representative of the order Parasitiformes, increasing the order's age by 50 million years, said Hans Klompen, an assistant professor of entomology at Ohio State University.

Tick experts currently believe that these insects evolved in South America.

"The idea that ticks originated in South America has not been helped by this find," Klompen said. "The specimen is old enough that it should not have been found in New Jersey."

Klompen describes the New Jersey tick, formally called Carios jerseyi, in the current issue of the journal Annals of the Entomological Society of America. He co-authored the paper with David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In the mid-1990s, workers from the museum discovered the tick - along with several other species of plants and animals - in an 80-pound amber outcrop excavated from a vacant lot in central New Jersey. The museum asked Klompen to describe and categorize the tick.

What puzzles him just as much as the climatic conundrum are the three dozen or so tiny bristle-like hairs aligned in two rows on the back of the tick. It's unlike anything that Klompen says he's seen on ticks.

"It was very surprising," he said. "Soft ticks normally have far fewer hairs over their entire body. But this tick is much closer to what I anticipate as the evolutionary starting point of all ticks."

Carios jerseyi is an argasid, or soft tick. The tick, estimated to be anywhere from 90 to 94 million years old, was fossilized in its larval stage. Entomologists know more about hard ticks (or ixodids) because of a more extensive fossil record. Still, the age of the oldest hard tick on record is a mere 35 to 40 million years.

The tick measures 520 by 445 micrometers (or 0.02 by 0.01 inches.) It's not easy to fit C. jerseyi in with a specific group of ticks, Klompen said, not because of its size, but because of its physical characteristics. He's not sure what purpose the neatly aligned hairs across the tick's backside serve.

"Most of the hairs on the body of a mite or a tick are probably contact receptors," he said. "If something gets too close, the tick notices it's there. Other argasids have hairs, but they're typically much longer and arranged chaotically."

Carios jerseyi did live at the same time as the dinosaurs, and Klompen admits that it's possible that the tick and its kin could have fed on the animals. "Ticks will feed on anything that has blood," he said. But what C. jerseyi fed on will remain a mystery for the present time, since scientists want to preserve the specimen - the only one of its kind - in its current form. Besides, fossilized ticks are a rarity.

"Would ticks feed on dinosaurs if dinosaurs were still around today? You bet," Klompen said. "Nearly all soft ticks will feed on a wide range of hosts. If it has blood, a soft tick will go for it."

Rather than feasting on dinosaurs, Klompen says, it's more likely that C. jerseyi fed on sea-faring birds. At least that's one theory on how the tick got to New Jersey.

Carios jerseyi shows similarities to a group of ticks known for feasting on birds. And a small feather (7.5 mm, or 0.3 inches) from an unidentified bird was also found preserved in the same outcrop of amber. "Finding this feather suggests that the tick might have traveled to North America on a seabird," Klompen said.

"And with what we currently know about the ancestral stomping grounds of ticks, this tick would had to have a host to get to New Jersey," he said. "And it almost had to be a host that flew."

Finally, Klompen tells those musing about the possibilities of creating a dinosaur from blood consumed by a tick not to hold their collective breaths. The tick did live during what's known as the upper Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. But, Klompen says, "You won't reconstruct a dinosaur from the blood of a blood-feeding arthropod."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Ancient Tick Found In New Jersey Leaves Experts Guessing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010328075426.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2001, March 28). Ancient Tick Found In New Jersey Leaves Experts Guessing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010328075426.htm
Ohio State University. "Ancient Tick Found In New Jersey Leaves Experts Guessing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010328075426.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins