http://cbc.ca/science

Ancient Tick Has Researchers Scratching their Heads


COLUMBUS, OHIO -- A 36 kilogram block of amber found in a vacant lot in New Jersey has turned up a mysterious creature - a 90-million-year-old tick.

The arachnid's age and its location are both unusual. This specimen is the oldest representative of the order Parasitiformes, increasing the order's age by 50 million years.

The current theory is that ticks originated in South America - a long way from the heart of New Jersey. Hans Klompen, an entomologist at Ohio State University was asked to classify the creature. He says the specimen is old enough that it should not have been found where it was.

The tick, formally called Carios jerseyi, was discovered in the mid-1990s along with several other species of plants and animals - all embedded in an amber outcrop.

Klompen says he thinks this specimen is probably very close to the evolutionary starting point of all ticks. It's estimated to be anywhere from 90 to 94 million years old and was fossilized in its larval stage.

Though this tick and its kin lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, Klompen thinks it's more likely it [C. jerseyi] fed on sea-faring birds, rather than sucking dino-blood.

The tick shows similarities to a group of ticks known for feasting on birds. And hitching a ride on a flying host is also one of Klompen's theories to explain how the tick travelled to New Jersey.

File Date: 4.02.01

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