Scientists have discovered that biting insects such as mosquitoes, fleas and flies were spreading Malaria millions of years ago in the Jurassic era, which could have been fatal to dinosaurs and other prehistoric wildlife. Microorganisms that cause malaria and a variety of other illnesses were discovered during a study of amber-preserved blood-sucking insects and ticks.
Scientists say mosquitoes, fleas, sand flies, ticks and biting midges are rarely found in amber, and so evidence of what microorganisms they might have been carrying is unusual. Amber discovered in five different regions across the globe contained bloodsucking insects carrying preserved pathogens and parasites. These insects dated back to 15-100 million years ago.
Today Malaria poses huge risks across many 3rd world countries, the study states multiple nations reported increases in infections for 2018. But the team found the bugs carried a plethora of microorganisms that today would also cause diseases such as filariasis, sleeping sickness, river blindness, typhus and Lyme disease. Study author George Poinar, an entymologist and Professor Emeritus in the College of Science at Oregon State University made the idea of extracting DNA from blood in insects found in amber, this idea led to the blockbuster move Jurassic Park.
He said: “Feeding on vertebrate blood evolved as an efficient way for certain insects and acarines to get protein for growth and reproduction.
“It’s likely that primitive mosquitoes and other arthropod vectors were present back in the Jurassic and were even transmitting pathogens at that period.
“This would have resulted in widely dispersed diseases, many of which were probably fatal to vertebrates when they first appeared.
“Numerous malaria species parasitise vertebrates today, and we now know that over the past 100 million years, malaria was being spread by mosquitoes, biting midges, bat flies and ticks.”
This study was published in the journal Historical Biology.