Friday, 5 December 2014

A new species of Flea from the Early Cretaceous of Liaoning Province, China.


The first Mesozoic fossil Fleas were discovered in Cretaceous deposits in Australia and Russia in the 1970s. However no further Mesozoic Fleas were reported between 1976 and 2012, since when a number of fossil Fleas have been reported from the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous of northeastern China. These Mesozoic Fleas are larger than modern Fleas (with Jurassic Fleas being larger than Cretaceous Fleas), and are thought to have fed on feathered Dinosaurs, early Birds, Mammals and Pterosaurs.

In a paper published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology on 27 August 2014, Taiping Gao and Chungkun Shih of the College of Life Sciences at Capital Normal University, Alexandr Rasnitsyn of the Palaeontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum in London, XingXu of the Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates at the Instituteof Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy ofSciences, Shuo Wang of the Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, and of the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Dong Ren, also of the College of Life Sciences at Capital Normal University describe a new species of Flea from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province, China.

The new species is placed in the genus Pseudopulex, which already contains two species, and given the specific name tanlan, meaning ‘avaricious’ in Mandarin, due to the fully distended abdomen of the female specimen, and the voracious feeding this implies. The species is described from two specimens, a female 9.26 mm in length and a male 9.5 mm in length. Both specimens come from an exposure of the Yixian Formation at Dawangzhangzi Village, which has been dated to 124.6 million years old.

Female specimen of Pseudopulex tanlan, (A) photograph and (B) line drawing. Gao et al. (2014).

The female specimen of Pseudopulex tanlan has a notably distended abdomen, which Gao et al. interpret as a sign that it had fed shortly before its death. The width of the abdomen is 4.0 mm, equal to 43% of its length, compared to an average of 28% for other described female Mesozoic Fleas. Gao et al. estimate that when not distended the abdomen would only have been 2.6 mm wide, suggesting that the Insect had ingested about 0.02 ml of blood, roughly 15 times the amount that modern Fleas typically consume.

Male specimen of Pseudopulex tanlan, (A) photograph and (B) line drawing. Gao et al. (2014).

See also…

Hangingflies are long-legged Scorpionflies (Mecoptera), a group of insects related to the True Flies. Scorpionflies get their name from the reproductive organs of the males of some species, which resemble the tails of Scorpions. Despite this fierce appearance most species are harmless herbivores, though it is thought that fleas are highly...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/a-new-species-of-flea-from-philippines.htmlA new species of Flea from the Philippines.  Fleas of the Family Stivaliidae are found across Africa, Australasia and Southeast Asia. They are specialist parasites of Rodents and Shrews (and occasionally...
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/giant-fleas-from-jurassic-of-china.html Giant Fleas from the Jurassic of China.         Fleas are highly specialized parasitic insects, preying on mammals and birds. They are related to Flies and Scorpionflies, though this relationship is not obvious as Fleas have become physically specialized, loosing their wings, altering their body shape and evolving specialized legs and mouthparts. A number of putative fossil fleas have been described from the Jurassic...

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