Hard tick grasping a dinosaur feather preserved in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. Modified from the open access article published in Nature Communications: 'Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs as revealed by Cretaceous amber assemblages.'
Hard tick grasping a dinosaur feather preserved in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. Modified from the open access article published in Nature Communications: 'Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs as revealed by Cretaceous amber assemblages.' Paper authors

Do you remember how the clones of dinosaurs are created in Steven Spielberg's 'Jurassic Park' movie? The same type of fossilized ticks has been discovered by scientists, trapped and preserved in amber for almost 100 million years.

The exciting part of this landmark discovery is that the real-life discovery too has more similarities as scientists have claimed that these parasites have sucked dinosaur's blood before getting fossilized. Researchers have found a tick still gripping a dinosaur feather inside a Burmese amber.

The discovery was published in Nature Communications.

On the flipside of it, scientists have tried to extract dinosaur-building DNA from the ancient amber but failed due to the short lifespan of this complex molecule.

Enrique Peñalver from the Spanish Geological Survey (IGME), who is the lead author of the work said, "Ticks are infamous blood-sucking, parasitic organisms, having a tremendous impact on the health of humans, livestock, pets, and even wildlife, but until now clear evidence of their role in deep time has been lacking."

In the past too, researchers had claimed that prehistoric dinosaurs had developed feathers like birds along with their scales. Cheng-Ming Choung, a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine has tried an experiment to manipulate the genes of alligators to reveal the truth behind feathered dinosaurs.

However, the newly found feather inside the Cretaceous amber has provided a new opportunity to find out the mystery behind feathered dinosaurs, as it is similar in structure to modern-day bird feathers.

Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, a researcher from Oxford University Museum of Natural History and one of the authors of the study explained: "The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight."

Although it is not sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on, the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird, as these appeared much later in theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence, he noted.

The researchers also named these ticks as "Dracula's terrible tick" which they have found and mentioned that these are similar to the modern version of blood-sucking eight-legged ticks.

David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History and one of the authors of the study said, "The simultaneous entrapment of two external parasites - the ticks - is extraordinary, and can be best explained if they had a nest-inhabiting ecology as some modern ticks do, living in the host's nest or in their own nest nearby."