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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Jurassic Itch
29 February 2012 1:01 pm
Feathered dinosaurs must have needed a good scratch. Paleontologists have discovered fossils of the oldest known fleas—insects unearthed from 165-million-year-old rocks in north-central China that ranged between five and 10 times the size of modern-day fleas, with the largest females (one shown at left) reaching lengths just over 20 millimeters and males (right) approaching 15 millimeters. These early vermin were wingless, like today's species, and their hind legs weren't yet adapted to allow the tremendous leaps for which many modern-day fleas—especially circus fleas—are famed. But the most notable aspect of these newly described fossils are the prodigious mouthparts used to pierce the hides of their hosts, the researchers report online today in Nature. Although these fleas could have fed on a variety of furred or feathered creatures, the length of their blood-siphoning weaponry, which is most prominent on females, suggests that the fleas' hosts had thick hides—a characteristic that probably applied to feathered dinosaurs but not to early mammals or birds.
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