On the probability of dinosaur fleas

Katharina Dittmar, Qiyun Zhu, Michael W. Hastriter, Michael F. Whiting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Recently, a set of publications described flea fossils from Jurassic and Early Cretaceous geological strata in northeastern China, which were suggested to have parasitized feathered dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and early birds or mammals. In support of these fossils being fleas, a recent publication in BMC Evolutionary Biology described the extended abdomen of a female fossil specimen as due to blood feeding. We here comment on these findings, and conclude that the current interpretation of the evolutionary trajectory and ecology of these putative dinosaur fleas is based on appeal to probability, rather than evidence. Hence, their taxonomic positioning as fleas, or stem fleas, as well as their ecological classification as ectoparasites and blood feeders is not supported by currently available data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Dinosaurs
  • Ectoparasites
  • Fleas
  • Siphonaptera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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