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Scientists Find Giant Jurassic Fleas

Inch-long critters believed to have fed on feathered dinosaurs
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2012 2:40 PM CST
Scientists Find Giant Jurassic Fleas
This photo shows the male flea from the Early Cretaceous. In the Jurassic era, even the measly flea was a beast.   (AP Photo/D. Huang, Nature)

(Newser) – What kind of flea feeds on dinosaurs? The big kind. Scientists have found fossils of Jurassic and Cretaceous-era fleas measuring up to an inch in length buried in China, the Telegraph reports. In addition to their unusual size, the fleas' saw-like "siphonate" mouthparts, which were used to suck the blood from their prey, are unusually long and sturdy.

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Because the only furry mammals of the period were very small, scientists hypothesize that such large fleas must have fed on dinosaurs—the long siphonate might have been used to pierce their hides. Today's far tinier fleas only prey on animals with fur or feathers, but because feathered dinosaurs have been unearthed in China, it's possible they were the fleas' main prey. (The little guys may have been impressive, but T. rex was a better biter.)

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