Scientists discover world's first tapeworm body image – Xinhua

This inset photograph shows the internal structures of a tapeworm body fossil (A) and an extant Trypanorhynchus tapeworm (B), respectively. (Manual via Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences/Xinhua)

NANJING, March 29 (Xinhua) — An international team of scientists has discovered a tapeworm body fossil in Cretaceous Kachin amber dating back to about 100 million years ago, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology. .

The fossil exhibits distinctive external and internal features that are most consistent with the tentacles of trypanorhynchus tapeworms that parasitize marine elasmobranchs (mainly sharks and rays).

Cestoda, or tapeworms, are a specialized endoparasitic group of flatworms. They have a complex life cycle requiring at least two different hosts and infect all major groups of vertebrates. Because of their soft tissue and hidden habitats, their fossil records are extremely rare.

The fossil is not only the first report of a partial body fossil of a tapeworm, but also the most definitive body fossil of a flatworm worldwide, providing direct evidence of their early evolution, said Wang Bo, a researcher at the institute.

Notably, this finding demonstrates that amber can protect the internal structure of helminths. Luo Sihong, a doctoral candidate at the institute, suggested that the discovery also raises a hypothesis about how the tapeworm ended up in amber from the ocean. „It probably parasitized the gut of a ray. After the ray was brought ashore and preyed upon by a dinosaur, the worm fell out and was covered by nearby resin as the dinosaur ate the ray's innards.”

The study, conducted by scientists from several countries including China, Germany, the United Kingdom and Myanmar, was recently published in the journal Geology.

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