Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Fossilized tick reveals perfectly preserved red blood cells

Date: April 4 2017
Source: Oregon State University

The only known example of ancient mammalian red blood cells preserved in amber may exist, thanks to a bit of monkey business.

The cells were found in a fossilized tick that had been gorging on a blood meal when it was unceremoniously removed midfeed and plunked in sticky amber. A subtle feature on the tick's back suggests that an ancient monkey that was grooming one of its friends removed the tick.

"Two tiny holes indicate that something picked a tick off the mammal it was feeding on, puncturing it in the process and dropping it immediately into tree sap," study co-author George Poinar Jr., an amber expert and professor emeritus at Oregon State University, said in a statement.
Examination of the gorgeously preserved specimen also reveals the presence of myriad parasites in the tick's gut. In modern times, similar parasites, such as Babesia microti, infect the blood cells of mammals ranging from humans to cattle.

"The fossilized blood cells, infected with these parasites, are simply amazing in their detail. This discovery provides the only known fossils of Babesia-type pathogens," Poinar said.

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