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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: A 270-Million-Year-Old Tapeworm Infection
30 January 2013 5:00 pm
As a lifestyle, parasitism obviously works. Long before our human ancestors crawled down from the trees, freeloading bloodsuckers were already making themselves at home within the guts and veins of primitive vertebrates. These tenacious little pests arrived on the scene at least 270 million years ago—140 million years earlier than previous records of intestinal parasites—according to new evidence uncovered by chance in the fossil record. While examining fossilized shark feces (main picture) collected from southern Brazil, researchers noticed a strange cluster of oval-shaped objects. Taking a closer look, they realized they had found a tapeworm egg case bearing an uncanny resemblance to those produced by modern pests today. The eggs featured operculums (indicated by the blue arrows in inset), or small teapot lid-like flaps characteristic of tapeworm eggs, which helped the researchers identify the finding. Such discoveries, they write in PLOS ONE, are exceptionally rare; the older the fossil, the less chance of finding signs of the tiny, fragile parasites that may have once colonized it. The "amazing" new specimen contains 93 tiny eggs, they write, each measuring about the same width as a human hair. Some of the eggs appear swollen, suggesting that they still contain the makings of ancient tapeworm babies. One of the eggs even holds what appears to be a developing larva. The egg case ranks as the earliest known evidence of tapeworm parasitism in vertebrates, indicating that this particular parasite has been plaguing fellow animals since the days of the massive supercontinent Pangaea. And more likely than not, it will stick around for millennia to come.
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