Chen, Wang, Engel et al. have discovered a new genus and species of ancient aquatic fly, which may be the earliest currently known aquatic ectoparasitic insect. Named Qiyia jurassica—after the Chinese word for ‘bizarre’ and the Jurassic period when it lived.
The mouth of Q. jurassica had a structure commonly found in ectoparasites, designed to pierce skin and suck blood. The larva also had several features that were particularly well-adapted for gripping the host animal while underwater. The prolegs—stumpy fleshy structures found on the abdomen—were covered in bristles that pointed upwards, anchoring the larva in place. Q. jurassica also had an unusual sucker on its thorax that would have provided a firm grip that held its head still during feeding.
Chen, Wang, Engel et al. suggest that Q. jurassica feasted on the blood of salamanders, as many salamander fossils have been found in the same region. The larvae could have attached to unexposed areas of the salamander—behind the gills, for example—where feeding would also have been easier due to the rich supply of blood vessels, and the thinner, more easily pierced skin.