- Amber • Dinosaurs • tick

In a new study, it has been discovered that, apart from sucking blood from humans as well as mammals, the ticks were also sucking blood from dinosaurs, mostly the feathered ones. Scientists got this surprising information when they found out tick attached to a dinosaur feather inside an amber.

Ambers are fossilized resins secreted by ancient trees/plants that trap debris such as seeds, leave, feathers and insects. This particular amber, founded in Myanmar, had trapped a tick entangled to a feather of a dinosaur. Lead author Dr. Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History said, Amber is fossilized resin, so it’s able to capture small bits of the ecosystem almost instantly. Amber can actually preserve interactions between organisms. This is the case with the feather and the grasping tick.”

The tick is believed to be sucking dinosaur blood around 99 million years ago. The latest discovery will help scientists get more information about the prehistoric diet of the ticks which are one of today’s most prevalent pests. The latest discovered amber specimen of tick and feather is very important because it’s very rare to find parasites with their hosts in the fossil records.

Pérez-de la Fuente has been doing research regarding tick and feather pair since years. He previously got many ticks trapped in amber from the same period. But no tick was attached to any feather. Some ticks were found to have some little hairs, which resembles the left behind part of today’s beetle larva. “We had this indirect evidence about the relationship between ticks and feathered dinosaurs,” said Pérez-de la Fuente. But now, they have got the first direct evidence of the fact that Ticks parasitized feathered dinosaurs. “Holy moly this is cool. This is the first time we’ve been able to find ticks directly associated with the dinosaur feathers.” said co-author David Grimaldi, when he and his colleges spotted the eight-legged tick while inspecting a private collection of amber from northern Myanmar. Dr. Grimaldi is an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History.

Ryan C. McKellar, a paleontologist at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, who was not a part of the research, said that the latest study provides the most compelling evidence to date for ticks feeding on feathered animals in the Cretaceous. “It demonstrates just how much detail can be obtained from a few pieces of amber in the hands of the right researchers,” he said. Although the latest study is a very encouraging one to know about the origins of ticks and their blood-sucking behavior, still more research needs to be done to get a definite conclusion about the ticks and feather pair. The paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.


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