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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: 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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