A new study from the University of Bristol, published in the journal Palaeoentomology, focuses on the largest available molecular dataset on insects. It was further analyzed using new statistical methods, which included more sophisticated algorithms. The aim of the study was to test all the proposed hypotheses about placing fleas on the tree of insect life. However, this also explained several new connections.
A new connection has been established
According to the authors of the study, it was discovered that fleas are technically scorpions. This discovery completely refuted all existing notions of the existence of fleas. According to the study, the species evolved when they began to feed on vertebrate blood somewhere between Perm and Jura, which was somewhere between 290 and 165 million years ago. The study’s lead author, Eric Tihelka of the School of Earth Sciences, said: “Of all the parasites in the animal kingdom, fleas have a prominent position. The Black Death, caused by a flea-borne bacterium, was the deadliest pandemic in recorded human history; in the 14th century, it took the lives of up to 200 million people. ” She added, “Yet, despite their medical significance, placing fleas on the tree of life is one of the most persistent enigmas in insect evolution.”
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It was also discovered that the closest relatives of fleas are members of the scorpion family Nannochoristidae. It is a rare group that has only seven indigenous species in the southern hemisphere. Also, adult nanochoristid scorpions have a peaceful existence by feeding on nectar.
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Mattia Giacomelli, a doctoral student at the University of Bristol who took part in the research, said: “It seems that elongated parts of the mouth that specialize in feeding nectar from flowers can co-opt during the evolution of the course to allow blood to be sucked.” As in previous studies, a link has been established between fleas and scorpions. However, their exact relationship has never been determined. Chenyang Cai, an associate professor at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology (NIGP) and a researcher at the University of Bristol, specializing in Mesozoic insects, said: “The new results suggest we may need to revise our entomology textbooks. Fleas no longer deserve the status of a separate order of insects, but should actually be classified as scorpions.
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