An American collector of gems donated some valuable samples of amber to the Museum of Natural History, and researchers discovered something remarkable trapped in them. The samples were 99 million years old, and contained tick fossils. One of the pieces of amber hid both a tick and a feather inside, indicating that the bloodsucking parasites fed on dinosaurs.
The amber contained a tick and a dinosaur feather
Researchers were amazed to find such evidence trapped inside a piece of amber. They performed a quick analysis on both occupants, and concluded that the feather belonged to a dinosaur. It dated back to the Cretaceous period, when birds hadn’t evolved yet. The tick was present right on the feather, indicating that the parasite is a lot older than we thought.
This was an unknown type of tick, which they haven’t found so far. Therefore, they included it into a new species which belonged to a completely new genus. This species was Deinocroton draculi. Nowadays, these insects can have a huge impact on the humans and animals they parasite.
The discovery represents the first evidence that these creatures existed even millions of years ago. Dinosaurs feathers got trapped in amber even before, but without any parasite around. Also, ticks got also caught in resin, and they appeared engorged. This means they must have still had blood from their host inside them.
It’s hard to find dinosaur DNA inside the tick
Many times, this raised some hope among the researchers, who thought the parasites maybe could have preserved dinosaur blood inside them. Unfortunately, these chances are slim. None the attempts to obtain DNA from inside an insect caught in amber has been successful.
Also, it’s impossible for DNA to stay unaltered for such a long period of time in these conditions. The entire process of amber entrapment changed the DNA, making it impossible to identify its origin. Even so, this was a remarkable discovery, and an example of one of the most concrete dinosaur fossils apart from bones.