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Bedbugs Study Reveals a Surprise

They walked the earth with the dinosaurs, are much older than thought
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2019 12:16 PM CDT
A bedbug is displayed at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

(Newser) – Bedbugs were around the same time as T. Rex. That's one of the surprising discoveries about the pest revealed in a new study in Current Biology. Researchers have generally thought that bedbugs were no older than bats—which go back roughly 60 million years— because bats were believed to have been their first food source. But the new research, based on DNA samples from more than 30 species of bedbugs, reveals that the insects first surfaced about 115 million years ago, reports the BBC. So what were they feeding on, if bats weren't around? That much is still unclear, but it probably wasn't dinosaurs because they tended not to have a "home" where bedbugs can thrive, per a news release.

"These findings will help us better understand how bedbugs evolved the traits that make them effective pests," says researcher Mike Siva-Jothy of the University of Sheffield. More to the point, for those hoping to avoid them: "That will also help us find new ways of controlling them." The study suggests that a species of bedbugs will typically start out by feeding on animal hosts but can shift to human blood over time. “A new species of bedbug conquers humans about every half a million years,” says another of the researchers. This kind of adaptability is one reason the insects have been able to endure so long, an ecologist tells Science. (Here is just one hotel horror story.)

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