Mosquitoes spread malaria as far back as 100 million years ago?
Scientists studied a mosquito from 100 million years ago, which was preserved in excellent condition in amber. Studies of the insect centuries ago shed new light on the development of malaria, a disease that kills more than 400,000 people annually.
A group of scientistsów from Oregon State University discovered a specimen of an unknown species of mosquito preserved in amber, whichówas named Priscoculex burmanicus. Amber, in whichóhe insect was found to have originated in Burma. Scientists estimate that the species lived during the Middle Cretaceous period.
After examining the specimen, scientists found that it had many features common to theólar with today’s malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The issue m.in. o blood vessels on their wings, abdomen or trumpet used to suck blood. Researchers believe that mosquitoes from the Cretaceous period róalso transmitted malaria.
– Mosquitoes may have carried malaria back in those days, but there is still no certainty – mówi George Poinar Jr. From the University of Oregon. – At that time, mosquitoes preyed on small birds and mammals and reptiles, just as they do today, he adds.
Malaria is caused by parasites carried by female mosquitoesów, whichóre suck blood from humans and animals. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of the disease. This is especially trueólnie inhabitantsóin sub-Saharan Africa. Although malaria can be treated, an effective vaccine against the disease has still not been developed. Therefore, in endangered regions it is recommended to use an agentóin insectsójicals and mosquito nets.
Could malaria have wreaked havoc on the dinosaur populationóin 100 millionów years ago? According to Poinar, this cannot be ruled out.
„A series of catastrophes have occurred in that time, including asteroid impacts, climate change and volcanic eruptionsów. At that time, the population of dinosaursów declined and slowly, over thousands of years became extinct. This suggests that other factors, such as insects, diseases or pathogens, have also had an impact on their population” – writes Poinar in his book „What Bugged Dinosaurs”.
Research also indicates that mosquitoes spread across the globe back in timeóIn when the supercontinent existed on it – Gondwana. – Insect fossilsów discovered in amber prove that, mosquitoes carried malaria as far back as 20 millionóin years ago, and the disease itself may have existed on earth even before the 100 million years – believes Poinar.
Scientists hope that further research will lead to a better understanding of malaria and better treatments for the disease.