150 million years old isopods on fishes: a possible case of palaeo-parasitism

 

Authors: Nagler C, Haug C, Resch U Kriwet J, Haug JT

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 91, issue 1; pages: 1 - 12; Received 7 September 2015; Accepted in revised form 31 October 2015; Online 4 December 2015

Keywords: palaeo-parasitology, fossil Cymothoida, Nerocila, host-parasite interaction,

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Abstract

Parasites are found in all habitats and within all groups of animals, and their influence on food webs, ecosystems and evolutionary development is significant. However, the fossil record of direct parasitism is very scarce. We present here probable examples of parasitic isopods on fishes from the Upper Jurassic Solnhofen Lithographic Limestones (150 million years old, southern Germany). Individual fishes appear to be infested with one to three isopods each. All specimens were documented with up-to-date imaging methods (macrophotography, stereo-photography, composite imaging). Position, orientation and other aspects clearly indicate that the isopods were already attached to the fishes before they died and hence do not represent scavengers but (more or less permanently) attached parasites. While the morphology of the specimens is somewhat uninformative about the systematic position of the isopods, their specific type of parasitism is an indicator for a position in the early lineage towards Cymothoidae. This would represent the first fossil record of this group of obligate fish parasites.

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