Jurassic Blood-Sucking Fleas Discovered in China

D. Huang/Nature/AP Photo

Hide your dogs, hide your cats, the discovery of monstrous "Jurassic fleas" in Northern China is enough to make even Twilight's vampires quiver.

A team of researchers has unearthed the fossilized remains of blood-sucking mini-beasts dating back at least 65 million years. They found them to be especially suited for sinking their teeth into dinosaurs. Nearly an inch long, the pesky, prehistoric critters were more than ten times the size of today's average household flea.

"It really appears as though they were specialized for working their way into some heavy hides," said Michael Engel, a palaeoentomologist at the University of Kansas who co-authored a study on the discovery. "It was a big critter. I can't even imagine coming home and finding my miniature schnauzer with one or more of these things crawling around on it."

When thirsty, these fleas were built to feast. They had stout "sucking siphons" used to pierce the tough hides of feathered dinosaurs such as the Pterosaurs. Unlike the fleas you may find on Fido, these creatures were not able to easily hop from meal to meal. Instead, researchers believe their hind legs were designed to take running leaps, enabling them to latch onto their prey.

Once feasting, their strong mouths may have made it hard for even a dinosaur to shake them loose. And in those days, a Jurassic flea bath would be hard to come by.

Tina Chen contributed to this report.

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