Scientists Have Opened 200 Million-Year-Old Parasite Eggs Found In Ancient Predator

By Haider Ali in Science and Technology On 15th August 2023

Researchers have dissected the fossilized excrement of a prehistoric reptile resembling a crocodile that existed 200 million years ago. This examination revealed that the creature harbored various types of parasitic organisms, including worms.

The waste material, scientifically referred to as a coprolite, was initially discovered in 2010 within the Huai Hin Lat Formation situated in the northeastern region of Thailand. The coprolite boasts a cylindrical form and measures over 7cm in length. 

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By analyzing its shape and contents, the scientific team proposes that it probably originated from a specific species of phytosaur. These phytosaurs, which share similarities with crocodiles, were inhabitants of the same geographical area where the coprolite was recovered.

The scientists from Mahasarakham University in Thailand examined some of the feces as part of their study and found five different types of parasite remains, each measuring between 50 and 150 micrometers.

Following that, they "used a standard thin section method" to cut apart the parasitic egg with a diamond saw, according to their article that was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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The paleontologists were able to examine cross-sections of the prehistoric worm egg under the microscope because of these incredibly tiny slices.

According to Thanit Nonsrirach, the study's primary author, local villagers first noticed the poo more than 13 years ago.

"The peculiar appearance of these findings intrigued the villagers, who considered them potentially auspicious and capable of bestowing good luck if repurposed as talismans," Nonsrirach Inverse.

"In 2010, our team received word of this discovery and embarked on a field expedition, guiding the villagers to the actual fossil site."

Nonsrirach advised him to check more closely because it's unusual to find a parasite fossil.

“This new point of view gives us a deeper understanding of how past ecosystems were connected and how they affected the lives of prehistoric animals,” Nonsrirach told Inverse.

He claims that the discovery helps them understand some of the interactions between 200 million years ago's predators, prey creatures, and parasites.

“Coprolites can preserve the soft bodies of ancient organisms, which helps us learn more about their biology,” Nonsrirach said.

“It's exciting to think that we might uncover new fossils that have never been seen before.”

The coprolite not only provides evidence of the reptile's dietary habits but also offers a window into the prevalence of parasites in prehistoric environments. 

This detailed investigation, conducted with cutting-edge techniques, has allowed researchers to probe the microscopic remnants of these ancient parasites and draw connections between these organisms and the broader ecosystem. As we delve deeper into the past through such discoveries, our understanding of the complex relationships among prehistoric creatures continues to expand, shedding light on the enigmatic world that existed millions of years ago.