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Monster ‘Fleas’ Put the Bite on Dinosaurs

May 28th, 2012
Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor

Paleo-pests about 10 times bigger than today’s fleas may have sneaked up on a huge dinosaur, crawled onto its soft underbelly and taken a bite, likely a painful one, say researchers who have discovered fossils of the flealike organisms.

“It would have felt about like a hypodermic needle going in, a flea shot, if not a flu shot,” George Poinar Jr., a professor emeritus of zoology at Oregon State University, said in a statement. “We can be thankful our modern fleas are not nearly this big,” said Poinar, who wrote a commentary alongside the research article published online April 24 in the journal Current Biology.

One possible lifesaver for dinosaurs: These bloodsuckers couldn’t jump like today’s pesky fleas. Even so, past research suggests dinosaurs may have also been the first beasts tormented by lice.

The fossils of the two newly identified “flea” species, now called Pseudopulex jurassicus and Pseudopulex magnus, were discovered in Inner Mongolia. These “compression fossils,” rather than impressions, are the actual preserved insects that fossilized over millions of years. [See Photos of the Dinosaur Fleas]

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