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Feathered dinosaurs were probably plagued with lice

A new study is proposing that feathered dinosaurs were probably covered with lice and may have spent a good deal of time nibbling them off during pruning.

“Our analysis suggests that both bird and mammal lice began to diversify before the mass extinction of dinosaurs,” principal investigator Kevin Johnson was quoted as saying in a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign press release. “And given how widespread lice are on birds, in particular, and also to some extent on mammals, they probably existed on a wide variety of hosts in the past, possibly including dinosaurs.”

That view is strengthened in the journal paper itself. The researchers write: “These data give an early- to mid-Cretaceous origin (115 – 130 million years ago) for lice, which suggests that these parasites probably infested feathered theropod dinosaurs.”

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Story: Jennifer Viegas | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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