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No, it’s not Jurassic Park: Blood-sucking ticks found on dinosaur feather

Jurassic Park showed dinosaur DNA being extracted from mosquitoes embedded in amber and used to makes clones of dinosaurs.

science Updated: Dec 14, 2017 14:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jurassic Park,Dinosaur fossils,Fossils
This handout picture by Nature Communication shows hard tick on a dinosaur feather preserved in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. .(AFP Photo)

Scientists have identified a 99-million-year-old fossilised tick on a dinosaur feather, leading people to compare the discovery with a scene from the movie Jurassic Park.

Scientists say they have found chunks of Burmese amber carrying ticks that drank the blood of feathered dinosaurs some 99 million years ago, the National Geographic reported.

A tick was found in a possible dinosaur feather found encased in a lump of amber. Another parasite was discovered in a separate piece of amber from the same region and had swollen to eight times its original size, suggesting that it was engorged with blood when it died.

The plumage likely belonged either to a feathered dinosaur or a primitive type of bird known as an enantiornithine. The discovery, which was first reported in the journal Nature Communications, offers evidence that animals in the past were also parasitised by creatures such as ticks and lice, said National Geographic. The parasites likely plagued all feathered animals in the Cretaceous forests of Myanmar that produced the amber.

But, unlike Jurassic Park’s storyline, researchers say that the blood is too degraded to yield DNA that could be used to clone the extinct creatures, or even to identify this tick’s last victim, said NBC News.

The movie and the Michael Crichton novel it was based on showed dinosaur DNA being extracted from mosquitoes embedded in amber and used to makes clones of dinosaurs. DNA is extremely fragile and unlikely to survive from such a long time.

Researchers are excited about these samples because they showcase an additional parasitic critter. Along with the ticks, the team found microscopic hairs from carpet beetle larvae, creatures that are commonly found in birds’ nests today.

“A special feature of amber is the ability that the resin has to capture small pieces of the environment in an almost unaltered way,” Pérez-de la Fuente, a paleo-entomologist at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in the UK, told National Geographic. Based on the amber contents, scientists say that the fossils offer hard evidence of nesting behaviour in the host animals.

The research shows “how much can be gleaned from specimens preserved with the level of detail that amber provides,” said Ryan McKellar, an expert on amber fossils at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada.

First Published: Dec 14, 2017 14:08 IST