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'Bizarre' parasite form Jurassic period discovered

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 3:59 PM - Researchers out of the University of Bonn in Germany have discovered a 'bizarre' parasite that existed around 165 million years ago in the freshwater lakes of present-day Inner Mongolia.

The tiny fly larva had a thorax that looked like a sucking plate, allowing it to adhere itself to salamanders and suck their blood.

Researchers say there is no other known insect to date that has such a "specialized design."

The larva, which is called qiyia jurassica, measures about 2 centimetres in length. It is described as having a tiny head and tube-shaped mouthparts.

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The word "quiya" is a Chinese word that translates to "bizarre" in English.

"The mid-body (thorax) has been completely transformed underneath into a gigantic sucking plate; the hind-body (abdomen) has caterpillar-like legs," the researchers say in a statement.

Researchers believe the parasite was well-fed, as it inhabited a lake that was home to numerous salamanders.

Illustration of Qiyia jurassica.

The fossil was discovered in good condition, embedded in mudstone.

"The finer the sediment, the better the details are reproduced in the fossils,"  Dr. Torsten Wappler said in a statement.

Groundwater conditions helped prevent decomposition as well.

Researchers say the discovery was quite "unexpected."

The findings have been published in the journal eLIFE.


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