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Perfectly preserved fossils of first 'vampire' bat discovered

Washington, Sat, 04 Feb 2012 ANI

Washington, Feb 4 (ANI): In a new discovery, scientists have found a one-of-a-kind fossil, which shows that "bat flies" have been doing their noxious business with bats for at least 20 million years.


Researchers from Oregon State University made the discovery in amber from the Dominican Republic that was formed 20-30 million years ago.


The bat fly was entombed and perfectly preserved for all that time in what was then oozing tree sap and later became a semi-precious stone.


This is the only fossil ever found of a bat fly, and according to scientists, it's an extraordinary discovery. It was also carrying malaria, further evidence of the long time that malaria has been prevalent in the New World. The genus of bat fly discovered in the research is now extinct.


"Bat flies are a remarkable case of specific evolution, animals that have co-evolved with bats and are found nowhere else," George Poinar, one of the world's leading experts on the study of ancient ecosystems through plants and animals preserved in amber, said.


"Bats are mammals that go back about 50 million years, the only true flying mammal, and the earliest species had claws and climbed trees.


"We now know that bat flies have been parasitizing them for at least half that time, and they are found exclusively in their fur. They are somewhat flat-sided like a flea, allowing them to move more easily through bat fur," he said.


Not every bat is infested with bat flies, and some of the contemporary flies are specific to certain species of bats. But they are still pretty common and found around the world.


Poinar said that bat flies only leave their bat in order to mate and that's probably what this specimen was doing when it got stuck in some sticky, oozing sap.


The study has been published in the journals Systematic Parasitology and Parasites and Vectors, (ANI)


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