Paleontologists Found Gigantic Fleas of Jurassic Era in China

According to new study the oldest fleas were five to 10 times larger than today’s bloodsuckers. But at least they couldn’t jump.

An international team of paleontologists discovered fossils of a giant fleas in China with the size of two centimeters. According to Diying Huang of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology their disproportionately long proboscis, or straw-like mouth, had sharp weapon-like serrated edges that helped them bite and feed from their super-sized hosts. These ancient bloodsuckers are the oldest fleas ever found, and the oldest example of bloodsucking parasites in the fossil record, study researcher André Nel said. The fleas lived in the Mesozoic era, a chunk of geologic time extending from 250 million years ago to 65 million years ago and includes the Jurassic period. They were giant compared with today’s fleas, with one female specimen’s body longer than 0.8 inches (2 cm), said study researcher Diying Huang. Modern fleas don’t get much larger than 0.1 inches, or 3 mm, in length. The fossils, which reside in the collections of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, fill in some of the gaps of flea evolution, study researcher André Nel said. The first fleas evolved from ancestors that fed on plant fluids. Some then evolved from plants to animals, becoming bloodsuckers. These parasites lost their wings and developed grasping legs to cling to fur and feathers. At some point still not pinpointed in the fossil record, Nel said, fleas evolved amazingly strong hind legs, which can catapult them 50 to 100 times their body length. The Jurassic bloodsuckers are detailed on February 29 online in the journal Nature.