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Lousy with Success: Genetics Reveal Fossil Lice as Evolutionary Champions [Slide Show]

Lice lineages began to split and diversify during the late Cretaceous, when dinosaurs, birds and early mammals probably were on the resilient parasites' menus

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MIND CONTROL:

Not all prehistoric parasites simply made homes in their hosts. A particular kind of fungus took over the minds of its victims in order to continue its life cycle, and still does today. Ophiocordyceps is a fungal parasite that causes ants to climb high into the forest canopy and clamp down hard on leaves just before dying, after which the fungus bursts out of the corpses to rain spores on new live victims below.....[ More ]

TYRANNICAL TRICHOMONAS

A Tyrannosaurus rex whose fossilized frame is now affectionately known as "Sue" may have been one of the biggest and baddest carnivorous dinosaurs of all time, but she may have met her doom because of parasitic microorganisms .....[ More ]

CLUES IN DINO-DUNG:

The gastrointestinal tract of one carnivorous dinosaur was home to at least three types of prehistoric parasite . The fossilized dung of this early Cretaceous theropod found in Belgium bears evidence, in fact, of varieties that still afflict organisms today—cysts of the protozoan Entamoeba , eggs from nematode roundworms, and eggs from trematode flatworms.....[ More ]

NUTRIENT THIEVES:

Platyceratid snails were such sneaky parasites that, until recently, paleontologists were unsure whether they were truly parasites or not. Researchers typically find the fossil gastropods on the stalks of frond-shaped cousins of sea stars called crinoids.....[ More ]

A BEAUTIFUL DEFENSE:

Around the same time that early fish were playing host to a variety of arthropods and worms, archaic, coil-shelled cephalopods called ammonoids also had some unwelcome houseguests. Tiny trematode worms made themselves comfortable in the cephalopods' shells, but the ammonoids had a unique defense.....[ More ]

PARASITE EXPLOSION:

Some of the oldest signs of parasites found among vertebrates date back to the Devonian period between 400 million and 360 million years ago. Fossils recovered from Estonia, Latvia and western Russia show that early, armored fish were beset by a variety of tiny nibblers.....[ More ]

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