Ticks are currently among the most prevalent blood-feeding ectoparasites, but their feeding habits and hosts in deep time have long remained speculative. Here, we report direct and indirect evidence in 99 million-year-old Cretaceous amber showing that hard ticks and ticks of the extinct new family Deinocrotonidae fed on blood from feathered dinosaurs, non-avialan or avialan excluding crown-group birds. A †Cornupalpatum burmanicum hard tick is entangled in a pennaceous feather. Two deinocrotonids described as †Deinocroton draculi gen. et sp. nov. have specialised setae from dermestid beetle larvae (hastisetae) attached to their bodies, likely indicating cohabitation in a feathered dinosaur nest. A third conspecific specimen is blood-engorged, its anatomical features suggesting that deinocrotonids fed rapidly to engorgement and had multiple gonotrophic cycles. These findings provide insight into early tick evolution and ecology, and shed light on poorly known arthropod-vertebrate interactions and potential disease transmission during the Mesozoic.
This research resulted from the determination that MCZ 8791 is a specimen of Deinonychus antirrhopus between one and two years of age and that the morphological variations within particular growth stages of this taxon have yet to be described. The primary goal of the research is to identify ontogenetic variations in this taxon. Histological analyses determined that the Deinonychus specimens AMNH 3015 and MOR 1178 were adults. Comparisons are made between MCZ 8791 and these adult specimens. The holotype, YPM 5205, and the other associated specimens of this taxon within the YPM collection are similar in size and morphology to AMNH 3015. Further comparisons were made with the three partial specimens OMNH 50268, MCZ 4371, and MOR 1182. Although these specimens represent only a partial ontogenetic series, a number of morphological variations can be described. One secondary goal of this research is to compare the known pattern of variable, informative, ontogenetic characters in MCZ 8791 to a similar pattern of morphological characters in the sub-adult dromaeosaurid specimen Bambiraptor feinbergorum, AMNH FR: 30556. If the characters that have been determined to represent variable juvenile morphology in the ontogeny of Deinonychus are exhibited in Bambiraptor, this study will begin the process of determining whether a similar, conservative, ontogenetic pattern exists throughout the rest of Dromaeosauridae. If defensible, it may reduce the number of sympatric taxa within this clade. The other secondary goal relates to the forelimb function. The approximate body size, forelimb length, wrist development, and the presence of a more prominent olecranon on the ulna of MCZ 8791 support the hypothesis that juveniles of this taxon possessed some form of flight capability.
- Evolution; international journal of organic evolution
- Published over 5 years ago
The largest specimen of the four-winged dromaeosaurid dinosaur Microraptor gui includes preserved gut contents. Previous reports of gut contents and considerations of functional morphology have indicated that Microraptor hunted in an arboreal environment. The new specimen demonstrates that this was not strictly the case, and offers unique insights into the ecology of nonavian dinosaurs early in the evolution of flight. The preserved gut contents are composed of teleost fish remains. Several morphological adaptations of Microraptor are identified as consistent with a partially piscivorous diet, including dentition with reduced serrations and forward projecting teeth on the anterior of the dentary. The feeding habits of Microraptor can now be understood better than that of any other carnivorous nonavian dinosaur, and Microraptor appears to have been an opportunistic and generalist feeder, able to exploit the most common prey in both the arboreal and aquatic microhabitats of the Early Cretaceous Jehol ecosystem.