Diseases and the Evolution of Pathogens

One of the basic premises of this book is that Cretaceous insects transmitted pathogens that either directly or indirectly affected dinosaurs. The results were not only dinosaur disease and mortality but also the destruction of dinosaur food plants. We feel that most, if not all, present-day vector-pathogen associations were already established or arose at some point in the Cretaceous, even though different genera and species of hosts and vectors were involved. The origins and coevolution of...

Extinctions and the KT Boundary

Extinctions vary in intensity from normal low-level background to major events where some 50 of the total species of plants and animals disappear. Of the many global restructurings that have been detected, only five qualify as mass extinctions. The best publicized occurred around the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K T) boundary some 65.5 mya and coincides with the demise of the dinosaurs. The many theories that have been proposed for the cause of these extinctions have broadly divided the scientific...

Cretaceous Hexapoda

Records from various sources, especially History of Insects,35 provide a total of 32 orders and 490 families. A dotted line means the presence of a group during all or part of the Cretaceous. The letters L, B, and C refer to records from Lebanese, Burmese, and Canadian amber. Asterisks indicate extinct groups. Since new Cretaceous insect fossils are being described continuously, this list is not complete. Order Family Lebanese Burmese Canadian

Did Dinosaurs or Insects Invent Flowering Plants

While relatively few angiosperms were established at the beginning of the Cretaceous, by the Late Cretaceous flowering plants accounted for possibly half of the plant diversity. With their amazingly rapid growth rates and relatively short reproduction periods, these plants were predestined for success. Encoded in their genetic makeup was the ability to radiate into a variety of habitats, from bogs and marshes to stone crannies, mountaintops, and tree branches. In his book on dinosaurs,52 Robert...

Sanitary Engineers of the Cretaceous

On an alluvial flood plain near the amber forest, a large or-nithopod dinosaur momentarily stopped grazing among the fern fronds, raised its tail, and defecated. Before the last of the waste even reached the ground, the air was crackling with the vibrating wings of thousands of dung beetles of all sizes and shapes. From large and round to small and oval, the beetles landed directly on or adjacent to the evacuated material. Not a moment was lost, and some began burrowing into the pile of waste...

The Cretaceous Age of Chimeras and Other Oddities

Among a clump of conifers, one species of shrubby an-giosperm had crowded out its neighbors, and a number of curious insects had collected on the flowers. Small solitary hymenopter-ans were actively skimming back and forth over the stamens, stopping momentarily to scrape pollen onto bristly hairs covering their hind legs. The branches on those hairs helped retain the grains, although many dislodged and fell on the receptive female flower parts as these primitive bees went about their everyday...

The Discovery of Cretaceous Diseases

Just before twilight, a herd of large sauropods grazed sedately on a stand of kauri trees. With their long necks, the mature adults could easily reach up into the understory and pull down whole branches laden with succulent new foliage. The forest was filled with the sounds of eating the thrashing of large animals through the underbrush, the cracking and rending of branches torn from the trunks, and the crashing thumps of these giants. Other, more subtle noises emanated from the herd, the...

Pollination

In a dark recess at the base of a fern, a tiny bee began the arduous duty of motherhood by constructing a nest. She first cleared a small area on the ground by using her toothed mandibles to remove, particle by particle, larger bits of soil, then began digging in earnest with both ront and middle pairs of legs. As the small pile of excavated soil became larger, the busy animal gradually disappeared inside the tunnel until finally only the ejected soil particles revealed the hy-menopteran's...

Herbivory

The sun beat down on the canopy of the freshly washed forest, causing steam to rise like puffs of smoke from the wet vegetation. Emerging through this leafy roof were the foliage crowns of the dominant trees, the kauri trees (araucarians). Massive trees with bases up to 40 feet in diameter, they reached skyward 120 or even 200 feet. Their flattened, elliptical leaves fluttered in the sunshine, displaying tapered ends, prominent longitudinal veins, and insect damage. A kauri cone infested with...

The Case for Entomophagy among Dinosaurs

A particularly large beetle was rolling a dung ball away from one of many fecal piles dotting the over-grazed plain when it was suddenly pounced upon and gobbled down by a young or-nithomimid. After consuming a few additional unlucky adults, the dinosaur started to dig around the perimeter of the drying excrement, searching for juicy dung beetle larvae, but they were buried too deeply and he left to try his luck elsewhere. Further away at the perimeter of the dense forest, an immature...

Insects The Ultimate Survivors

Insects have been around for more than 400 million years. Dinosaurs (non-avian) only lasted 180 million. What determines how long families, genera, and species survive When biological and physical events impact a species so that the death rate continuously exceeds the birth rate, that life form has begun a downward spiral towards extinction. Ultimately a low population threshold is reached where recovery is impossible and the fate of the species is sealed. That loss has a ripple effect...

Ticks and Mites

A miniscule tick larva sat motionless on the arched frond of a large tree fern. The young juvenile had recently emerged from a cluster of eggs laid in leaf litter on the forest floor. Drven by the basic instinct to obtain a blood meal, the hatchlings had scattered in various directions. They all eventually ascended an assortment of plants to reach a height suitable for contacting a passing vertebrate. Some had chosen horsetail stems, while others had selected tree trucks. The journey for a few...

Biting Midges

An industrious hadrosaur stripped foliage from a kauri tree sapling growing at the border of a sodden meadow. Metallic-colored dragonflies greeted the day by darting across the tops of ferns and horsetails and catching small insects on the wing. Clouds of silvery-winged mayflies fluttered up from the dew-covered vegetation. The dinosaur munched away at overhanging branches, consuming myriads of aphids and scale insects that covered the leaves. The commotion caused small weevils and xyelid...

Gorging on Dinosaurs

Pool Feeding Capillar Feeding

Fresh vertebrate blood is not exactly everyone's ideal meal. But for a few animals such as leeches, vampire bats, and hematophagous insects, it represents haute cuisine. And even some humans, like the Masai of Kenya, are well known for surviving on a mixture of milk and blood drawn from cows and goats. But by far, the largest group of animals to develop this proclivity is bloodsucking insects, and they have truly perfected this habit because their very survival has depended on this sanguinary...

The Cretaceous A Time of Change

The sun rose and set over 29 billion times during the Cretaceous. Each succeeding dawn and nightfall saw the birth and death of billions of organisms, and in every passing millennium, species arose or became extinct. Dramatic physical and biological changes molded the evolution of insects, plants, and dinosaurs during that period in the planet's history. Differences in insect taxa are evident in the amber fossils found in Lebanon in the Early, Burma in the mid, and Canada in the Late...

Parasitic Worms

Picture Tapeworm Emerging From Cyst

An ailing ankylosaur fell behind the herd, obviously in pain. Masses of roundworms in the stomach had obstructed the normal flow of food through the alimentary tract. Many of these ascarid worms had reached more than a foot in length, and were depositing millions of minute eggs that then passed out the partially blocked intestine in the stool. Cockroaches and other insects gathered to feed on the broken-down plant material in the feces and were accidentally ingesting the eggs. When they in turn...

Fleas and Lice

A warm rain had caused tens of thousands of termites to swarm out of a nest at the base of a rotting log, and a feathered juvenile theropod, a coelurosaur was frantically rushing after them, savoring their rich, fatty bodies. After leaping into the air to snap at those that had just become airborne, the youngster suddenly stopped and began frantically scratching among the feathery structures on his neck. Residing there were two species of strange, wingless insects. One, a large, partially...

Sand Flies

Sand Fly Dinosaurs

On a cloudy, damp afternoon, a hungry gecko was cautiously crawling over the trunk of an araucarian tree, looking for insects but at the same time watchful for enemies. In one area a portion of the bark was missing and several beetles had collected, all of which provided a potential meal. The lizard moved to grab one but they all darted away, and in the end, the reptile chose a small weevil for its next meal, one that was crawling along the tree and lilting its elbowed antennae to detect scents...

Blackflies

A mountain stream coursed around and over boulders and tree roots through a glen in the forest. Clinging to the surface of the rocks were clusters of small, upright blackfly larvae equipped with a pair of strainers used to sieve out passing food items rom the current. Unlike the robust aduts that aggressively searched for blood, these immatures quietly waited for miniscule food items to pass by and be netted. When the blackfly larvae were satiated and eager to make the transformation into the...

Horseflies and Deerflies

A rather large horsefly rested on a ginkgo leaf while the early rays of the sun dried its new brown-spotted wing membranes. Just a few days before, this insect had been a white legless grub crawling through mire on the shore of an extensive lagoon, sucking the lifeblood from any luckless invertebrate it could overpower. Now a second phase in life was beginning. The large, iridescent eyes searching the landscape for prey gave the illusion of beauty and innocence but masked a rather sinister...

Info

When thinking of insect fossils, most people naturally envision amber, although some wonderful rock impressions also exist. For us, amber represents the crowning jewel of all fossils because of the unique lifelike appearance of the entombed life forms and its ability to capture extremely small and delicate objects like spider webs and microbes fig. 2 . Amber also transforms insects into gems of breathtaking beauty. Magnified by a microscope and illuminated by...

B

Lepismatida Lepidotrichidae -------------- dragonflies Aeshnidae -------------- Order Family Lebanese Burmese Canadian Protomyrmeleontidae --------------------------- Thaumatoneuridae --------------------------- undetermined - - L----------------------- Ephemeroptera Ametropodidae mayflies Australiphemeridae Baetidae Behningiidae Epeoromimidae Ephemerellidae Euthyplociidae Heptageniidae Hexagenitidae Leptophlebiidae Mesonetidae Oligoneuriidae Palaeoanthidae Palingeniidae Polymitarcyidae...

Dinosaurs Competing with Insects

From the habits of present day herbivorous insects, we can infer how they would have competed with dinosaurs. We know that nemonychid weevils, like the one found in Lebanese amber, feed on pollen in the male cones of kauri trees and presume that they had similar habits in the Early Cretaceous. And it is quite likely that this source of protein was sought after by dinosaurs, just as birds and lizards feed on pollen today.56 The interfaces between insects and dinosaurs regarding conifer cones...

Mosquitoes

The silvery rays of a bright moon silhouetted a small carnivorous dinosaur moving silently among the stalks of giant reeds bordering the forest. The night air was filled with the croaking of frogs, chirping of tree crickets, and rustling sounds of leaves in the wind. With large eyes adapted to low light intensities, the activities of a rodent-like mammal feasting on seeds in the undergrowth were easy to detect. The dinosaur crouched down and slowly began to stalk the unwary prey. When it heard...