A new study by the University of Bristol, published in the journal Palaeoentomology, focused on the largest available molecular data set from insects. It was further analyzed using new statistical methods that included more complex algorithms. The aim of the study was to test all of the proposed hypotheses regarding the placement of fleas on the insect tree of life. However, some new relationships were also discussed.
Established a new relationship
According to the study’s authors, it was found that technically, fleas are scorpion flies. This revelation completely rejected all existing ideas about the existence of fleas. According to the study, the species evolved when they began with vertebrate blood sometime between the Permian and Jurassic, which ranged from 290 to 165 million years ago. The study’s lead author, Erik Tihelka of the School of Earth Sciences, said: “Of all the parasites in the animal kingdom, fleas hold a prominent position. The Black Death, caused by a flea-borne bacterium, was the deadliest pandemic in recorded human history. it claimed the lives of possibly up to 200 million people in the 14th century. She added, “Despite its medical importance, the placement of fleas on the Tree of Life is one of the most persistent puzzles in insect evolution.”
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It was also discovered that fleas’ closest relatives are members of the scorpion fly family Nannochoristidae. This is a rare group with only seven species native to the southern hemisphere. Adult nannochoristide scorpion flies also live peacefully and feed on nectar.
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A graduate student at the University of Bristol who participated in the study, Mattia Giacomelli, said, “It appears that the elongated mouthparts that specialize in nectar feeding from flowers can be co-opted during course development to suckle blood As in previous studies, a link was established between fleas and scorpion flies. However, their exact relationship was never established. Chenyang Cai, Associate Professor at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology (NIGP) and a research fellow at Bristol University specializing in Mesozoic insects, said, “The new results suggest that we may need to revise our entomology textbooks. Fleas no longer deserve the status of a separate insect order, but should actually be assigned to the scorpion flies. “
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(Photo credit: RepresentativeImage / Unsplash)
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