Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bizarre parasite from the Jurassic had mouthparts for sucking blood of salamanders

Date:
June 24, 2014
Source:
Universität Bonn
Summary:
Around 165 million years ago, a spectacular parasite was at home in the freshwater lakes of present-day Inner Mongolia (China): A fly larva with a thorax formed entirely like a sucking plate. With it, the animal could adhere to salamanders and suck their blood with its mouthparts formed like a sting. To date no insect is known that is equipped with a similar specialized design.

Salamanders served as hosts: This reconstruction shows how scientists think the fly larvae adhered to the skin of the amphibian.
Credit: Yang Dinghua, Nanjing

Researchers from the University of Bonn and from China have discovered a fossil fly larva with a spectacular sucking apparatus.

Related Articles


Around 165 million years ago, a spectacular parasite was at home in the freshwater lakes of present-day Inner Mongolia (China): A fly larva with a thorax formed entirely like a sucking plate. With it, the animal could adhere to salamanders and suck their blood with its mouthparts formed like a sting. To date no insect is known that is equipped with a similar specialised design. The international scientific team is now presenting its findings in the journal eLIFE.

The parasite, an elongate fly larva around two centimeters long, had undergone extreme changes over the course of evolution: The head is tiny in comparison to the body, tube-shaped with piercer-like mouthparts at the front. The mid-body (thorax) has been completely transformed underneath into a gigantic sucking plate; the hind-body (abdomen) has caterpillar-like legs. The international research team believes that this unusual animal is a parasite which lived in a landscape with volcanoes and lakes what is now northeastern China around 165 million years ago. In this fresh water habitat, the parasite crawled onto passing salamanders, attached itself with its sucking plate, and penetrated the thin skin of the amphibians in order to suck blood from them.

"The parasite lived the life of Reilly," says Prof. Jes Rust from the Steinmann Institute for Geology, Mineralogy and Palaeontology of the University of Bonn. This is because there were many salamanders in the lakes, as fossil finds at the same location near Ningcheng in Inner Mongolia (China) have shown. "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. The spectacular fly larva, which has received the scientific name of "Qiyia jurassica," however, was a quite unexpected find. "Qiyia" in Chinese means "bizarre"; "jurassica" refers to the Jurassic period to which the fossils belong.

A fine-grained mudstone ensured the good state of preservation of the fossil

For the international team of scientists from the University of Bonn, the Linyi University (China), the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (China), the University of Kansas (USA) and the Natural History Museum in London (England), the insect larva is a spectacular find: "No insect exists today with a comparable body shape," says Dr Bo Wang. That the bizarre larva from the Jurassic has remained so well-preserved to the present day is partly due to the fine-grained mudstone in which the animals were embedded. "The finer the sediment, the better the details are reproduced in the fossils," explains Dr Torsten Wappler of the Steinmann-Institut of the University of Bonn. The conditions in the groundwater also prevented decomposition by bacteria.

Astonishingly, no fossil fish are found in the freshwater lakes of this Jurassic epoch in China. "On the other hand, there are almost unlimited finds of fossilised salamanders, which were found by the thousand," says Dr Bo Wang. This unusual ecology could explain why the bizarre parasites survived in the lakes: fish are predators of fly larvae and usually hold them in check. "The extreme adaptations in the design of Qiyia jurassica show the extent to which organisms can specialise in the course of evolution," says Prof. Rust.

As unpleasant as the parasites were for the salamanders, their deaths were not caused by the fly larvae. "A parasite only sometimes kills its host when it has achieved its goal, for example, reproduction or feeding ," Dr Wappler explains. If Qiyia jurassica had passed through the larval stage, it would have grown into an adult insect after completing metamorphosis. The scientists don't yet have enough information to speculate as to what the adult it would have looked like, and how it might have lived.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Universität Bonn. "Bizarre parasite from the Jurassic had mouthparts for sucking blood of salamanders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624105854.htm>.
Universität Bonn. (2014, June 24). Bizarre parasite from the Jurassic had mouthparts for sucking blood of salamanders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624105854.htm
Universität Bonn. "Bizarre parasite from the Jurassic had mouthparts for sucking blood of salamanders." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624105854.htm (accessed November 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Buzz60 (Oct. 31, 2014) — For its nature series Life Story, the BBC profiled the barnacle goose, whose chicks must make a daredevil 400-foot cliff dive from their nests to find food. Jen Markham has the astonishing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) — The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) — A health group in the United Kingdom has called for mandatory calorie labels on alcoholic beverages in the European Union. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) — Focus on treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia means that treatment for malaria, itself a killer, is hard to come by. MSF are now undertaking the mass distribution of antimalarials in Monrovia. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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