‘Dracula Ticks’ Are Found Perfectly Preserved in 99-Million-Year-Old Amber Entangled With DINOSAUR Feathers and Swollen After Feasting on Blood

In a recent amazing discovery, the Paleontologists have found a 99-million-year-old fossilized tick on a dinosaur feather. Unlike the popular Jurassic Park Hollywood scenario, this time researchers can’t replicate a dinosaur since this disease-spreading, blood-sucking and just generally repulsive ticks didn’t preserve their last meal.

In their study, the team of researchers recognized several pieces of amber from Southeast Asia that include ticks preserved with direct evidence of what these ancient parasites ate. Of the amber-preserved examples covered in the new research, the most fascinating is a tick clinging to a dinosaur feather.

Hard tick grasping a dinosaur feather preserved in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. Credit: Peñalver et al.

To start with the juvenile hard tick clutching a feather, which provides direct evidence of ticks parasitizing feathered dinosaurs in the mid-Cretaceous. This tick is referred to as “Cornupalpatum burmanicum,” which is fundamentally the same as present hard ticks and it seems like their host was almost certainly some sort of fledgling dinosaur no bigger than a hummingbird. The parasites were most likely undesirable roommates residing in the dinosaurs nests and sucking their blood.

The team of researchers furthermore disclosed the discovery of a couple of ticks in amber, including two which were coated with minuscule hairs belonging to a beetle.

The team traced the origins of the beetle hair to a specific type of insect identified as a skin beetle, which at present resides in nests and scavenges on molted feathers along with shredded skin and hair. In ancient circumstances, they doubtlessly annoyed dinosaurs in their nests.

Adult ticks, extant and preserved in ancient amber, compared to the tick nymph found attached to the dinosaur feather, above left. Scientists concluded that the tick nymph fed on a nanoraptor, a fledgling dinosaur no bigger than a hummingbird. Credit E. Peñalver

This discovery is a paleontologist’s dream,” states Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, a paleontologist at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in the United Kingdom. “The hairs stuck to the two D. draculi closely resemble those found on a certain type of beetle larvae. Today, these beetle larvae live in bird and mammal nests, feeding on sloughed-off skin and feathers. They use the sticky hairs to fend off predators, and the hairs can end up collecting to form thick mats in nests where the beetle larvae reside,” says Pérez-de la Fuente. “The most likely scenario is that the two ticks got entangled with the hairs when visiting the nest of a feathered dinosaur.”

Reconstruction of the habitus of Deinocroton draculi on an immature feathered dinosaur. The reconstruction shows two unengorged males (left) and a female feeding to engorgement (right). Male body length ca. 3.9 mm. Colours of the ticks are conjectural but based on the colouration seen in the related nuttalliellid ticks. Performed by the authors using models of the males created by the artist Oscar Sanisidro.

is especially horrible at conserving DNA, and the scientists don’t want to damage the specimen. But Pérez-de la Fuente isn’t completely ruling out a Jurassic Park scenario. “Science advances very fast,” he mentions. “Who knows if in the future we might have new techniques and approaches to extract DNA from these beasts.”


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