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Tapeworm Eggs Discovered In 270 Million Year Old Fossil Shark Feces

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RIO GRANDE, Brazil -- A cluster of tapeworm eggs discovered in 270-million-year-old fossilized shark feces suggests that intestinal parasites in vertebrates are much older than previously known, according to research published January 30 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Paula Dentzien-Dias and colleagues from the Federal University of Rio Grande, Brazil.

Remains of such parasites in vertebrates from this era are rare- of 500 samples examined, only one revealed the tapeworm eggs. This particular discovery helps establish a timeline for the evolution of present-day parasitic tapeworms that occur in foods like pork, fish and beef. The fossilized eggs were found in a cluster very similar to those laid by modern tapeworms. Some of them are un-hatched and one contains what appears to be a developing larva. According to the study, "This discovery shows that the fossil record of vertebrate intestinal parasites is much older than was previously known and occurred at least 270-300 million years ago."

The fossil described in this study is from Middle-Late Permian times, a period followed by the largest mass extinction known, when nearly 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species died out.

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Reader Comments

6 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

Parasites?? Oh, you mean democrats.
   comment# 1   - bluto · usa · Jan 30, 2013 @ 9:50pm

That's a headline you don't see everyday. 270 million year old shark poop complete with tapeworms. Just glad I already finish my breakfast and coffee.
   comment# 2   - Wazniak · Tampa FL · Jan 31, 2013 @ 6:01am

While in Lebanon Valley College the prof mentioned a woman with a tape worm the size of a volleyball who had successful surgery and recovery. Has anyone tried viablity tests before the dry air kills them? Or are they reckoned dead by uninformed diggers?
   comment# 3   - William Bicksler · USA Indianapolis · Jan 31, 2013 @ 6:56am

well, thank you for that absolutely gross information.
   comment# 4   - William Ketcher · little rock, AR USA · Jan 31, 2013 @ 8:41am

Maybe parasites were the cause of the mass extinction... Maybe the dating process is off... If the parasites are so much older than originally thought, why did they not evolve into something else?
   comment# 5   - Brad · Milwaukie, USA · Jan 31, 2013 @ 10:18am

Commenter #4 I totally agree.
   comment# 6   - Amanda · Sterling, Va · Jan 31, 2013 @ 1:41pm
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