Thursday, March 8, 2012

Giant Fleas

by D. Huang
 Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, 
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum. 
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on; While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
                       -Augustus De Morgan

It only makes sense that even dinosaurs had "little bugs that bite em," although they would likely have required industrial strength mouth parts.  It turns out that they did.

The Washington Post reports the discovery in China of two ancient species of fleas that were up to 10 times larger than our current variety.  The largest of these were up to an inch long and came equipped with a very elongated mouth including a very sharp "siphon," likely able to penetrate the thick hide of a dinosaur or anything else of interest.

Castrocardia- Mark A. Klingler/CMNH)
Although mammals did exist 125 to 165 million years ago, they were small and presumably not too numerous.  The largest identified so far is the Castrocardia, an evolutionary dead end, that was like a beaver-otter weighing in at 1-2 pounds.  It seems likely that the giant flea's structure would be overkill on this little guy.  Just think of having a chihuahua hanging on your leg and you get the idea.

If you want a fact to remember out of this post to impress your friends, we have this biological pearl of knowledge from Dr. Chris Barnhart. 
"The difference between a dinosaur and a flea?   A dinosaur can have fleas, but a flea can't have dinosaurs."

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