A couple of interesting stories that came up that might be interesting to you also. The tick story brought to mind the energy vampire stuff I shared yesterday and a memory from my childhood today. My stepmother’s sister used to babysit me in the summer when I was real young. I remember being sick while staying with her. I was laying on the couch and remember finding a large bump on the top of my head. Well I kept picking at it and it actually came off, was squishy….was alive! I am pretty sure it was a tick and I don’t know how long it had been on my head! Wild right?! Then, the spider story made me think of a weird bite that showed on my foot last year and it didn’t heal for a long time – two holes like a spider bite. I have a scar like all the times after fire ants have bitten me. I’ve always been a buffet for insects….mostly mosquitos. I can remember a picture of me as a little girl wearing a fur coat costume and my legs were just covered in welts from mosquito bites. Nature has a voracious appetite from insects we cannot see to those beings we can. Just like us, they will do anything necessary to survive.
Dracula ticks in amber tell ancient blood-sucking tale
Feathered dinosaurs were covered in ticks just like modern animals, fossil evidence shows.
Parasites similar to modern ticks have been found inside pieces of amber from Myanmar dating back 99 million years.
One is entangled with a dinosaur feather, another is swollen with blood, and two were in a dinosaur nest.
Scientists say the discovery, which has echoes of Jurassic Park, is the first direct fossil evidence that ticks fed on the blood of dinosaurs.
The research is published in the journal, Nature Communications.
”Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs; now we have direct evidence of it,” co-researcher Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History told BBC News.
”This paper represents a very good example of the kind of detailed information that can be extracted from amber fossils.”
Amber is fossilised tree resin. The sticky substance can trap skin, scales, fur, feathers or even whole creatures, such as ticks.
In this case, the researchers found a type of tick, now extinct, that is new to science. They named it, Deinocroton draculi or “Dracula’s terrible tick”.
“Ticks are infamous blood-sucking, parasitic organisms, having a tremendous impact on the health of humans, livestock, pets, and even wildlife, but until now clear evidence of their role in deep time has been lacking,” said Enrique Peñalver from the Spanish Geological Survey (IGME), the lead researcher on the study.
The fossils in amber may echo the fictional world of Jurassic Park, but they will not give up the secrets of dinosaur DNA.
All attempts to extract DNA from amber specimens have failed since the complex molecule is too fragile to be preserved.
However, the fossils do give a snapshot of the lives of the feathered dinosaurs, some of which evolved into modern-day birds.
“The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight,” said Dr Pérez-de la Fuente.
“So although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on, the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird, as these appeared much later in theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence.”
The researchers found further evidence of ticks riling dinosaurs. Hair-like structures from skin beetles found attached to two of the ticks suggest they lived in the nests of feathered dinosaurs, along with the beetles.
“The simultaneous entrapment of two external parasites – the ticks – is extraordinary, and can be best explained if they had a nest-inhabiting ecology as some modern ticks do, living in the host’s nest or in their own nest nearby,” said Dr David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History, who worked on the study.
Together, these findings suggest that ticks have been sucking the blood of dinosaurs for almost 100 million years.
After dinosaurs died out in the mass extinction 66 million years ago, ticks clung on and continued to thrive.
Ticks are closely related to spiders, scorpions and mites. They feed on animals and can pass diseases on to people, pets, wildlife and livestock.
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‘Extraordinary’ fossil sheds light on origins of spiders
An “extraordinary” spider “cousin” trapped in amber for 100 million years is shaking up ideas about the origins of spiders.
The ancient creature had a tail, unlike its modern relatives.
It belongs to a group of arachnids (spiders, scorpions and the like) that were related to true spiders.
Researchers say it’s possible – but unlikely – that the animal might still be alive today in the rainforests of southeast Asia.
The creature’s remote habitat and small size makes it possible that tailed descendants could still be living in Myanmar, where the fossils were found, said Dr Paul Selden of the University of Kansas.
Fossil treasure trove
Myanmar has yielded a treasure trove of discoveries of skin, scales, fur, feathers and even ticks preserved in fossilised tree resin.
This find dates back to the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs like T. rex walked the Earth. The arachnid has an unusual mixture of ancient and modern features.
Scientists have named it Chimerarachne yingi, after the Greek mythological Chimera, a hybrid creature composed of the parts of more than one animal.
“We have known for a decade or so that spiders evolved from arachnids that had tails, more than 315 million years ago,” said Dr Russell Garwood of The University of Manchester, a co-researcher on the study.
“We’ve not found fossils before that showed this, and so finding this now was a huge (but really fantastic) surprise.”
Four specimens of the tiny spider have been found. The scientists think it lived on or around tree trunks, perhaps under bark or in the moss at the foot of a tree.
It was capable of producing silk using its spinnerets, but was unlikely to have woven webs. And it’s not known what the tail would have been used for or if the spider was venomous.
Commenting on the research, Dr Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, said the “amazing fossils” will be important in deciphering the puzzle of the evolution of spiders and allied groups.
“Chimerarachne fills the gap between Palaeozoic arachnids with tails known from rocks (uraraneids) and true spiders, and the fact the new fossils have been wonderfully preserved in Burmese amber has allowed an unmatched detail of study,” he said.
“There are many surprises still waiting to be unearthed in the fossil record. Like most unexpected findings in palaeontology it probably brings more questions than answers, but questions are what keep things exciting and push the boundaries of science.”
Spiders as a group date back to more than 300 million years ago. Chimerarachne shared a common ancestor with the true spiders and resembles a member of the most primitive group of modern living spiders, the mesotheles, which are found today only in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
“It must have lived for about 200 million years side-by-side with spiders, but we’ve never found a fossil of one of these [before] that’s younger than 295 million years,” said Dr Garwood, from Manchester’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
Spiders are one of the success stories of the natural world, with more than 47,000 living species.
Over hundreds of millions of years they have evolved several unique features, including spinnerets and venom for immobilising prey.
The research is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution as two separate papers. One paper, led by Bo Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, described two specimens. The other, led by Gonzalo Giribet of Harvard University, presents two more fossil arachnids.
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A Perfect Circle – Weak and Powerless