What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease, and Death in the Cretaceous

What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease, and Death in the Cretaceous

What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease, and Death in the Cretaceous

What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease, and Death in the Cretaceous


Millions of years ago in the Cretaceous period, the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex--with its dagger-like teeth for tearing its prey to ribbons--was undoubtedly the fiercest carnivore to roam the Earth. Yet as What Bugged the Dinosaurs? reveals, T. rex was not the only killer. George and Roberta Poinar show how insects--from biting sand flies to disease-causing parasites--dominated life on the planet and played a significant role in the life and death of the dinosaurs.

The Poinars bring the age of the dinosaurs marvelously to life. Analyzing exotic insects fossilized in Cretaceous amber at three major deposits in Lebanon, Burma, and Canada, they reconstruct the complex ecology of a hostile prehistoric world inhabited by voracious swarms of insects. The Poinars draw upon tantalizing new evidence from their amazing discoveries of disease-producing vertebrate pathogens in Cretaceous blood-sucking flies, as well as intestinal worms and protozoa found in fossilized dinosaur excrement, to provide a unique view of how insects infected with malaria, leishmania, and other pathogens, together with intestinal parasites, could have devastated dinosaur populations.

A scientific adventure story from the authors whose research inspired Jurassic Park, What Bugged the Dinosaurs?? offers compelling evidence of how insects directly and indirectly contributed to the dinosaurs' demise.


One hundred million years ago, dinosaurs ruled the earth … or did they? in reality, there were millions of tiny animals undaunted by those powerful reptilian behemoths and unfazed by their reign of terror, that actually sought them as prey. Hordes of belligerent biting insects assaulted the majestic Tyran- nosaurus rex much the same way that they pester humans now. During the Cretaceous period, insect populations, unchecked by insecticides as they are today, thrived and undoubtedly accounted for the majority of animal diversity and biomass on the earth. With nearly a million species of insects described and possibly three times as many still unidentified, ours is clearly an insect world. Imagine what it was like 100 million years ago when insect diversity was even greater, and consider that maybe, just maybe, it was the insects that ruled the world. and if you are not convinced of the ultimate superiority of the insects over dinosaurs, just consider this: insects were around before, during, and after the reign of the non-avian dinosaurs.

We would like to take you on a journey through time to examine the world of the dinosaurs and discover what bugged them. By using insect fossils from the Cretaceous period, we’ll visualize the likely relationships that occurred between insects and dinosaurs, and try to predict how they could have impacted dinosaur populations. Our interpretations of the habits of the fossil insects will be based on the behavior and ecology of their present-day descendants. Crucial to this endeavor are several important amber deposits that provide glimpses of insects that shaped the environment at three important periods: Early Cretaceous Lebanese deposits dating from 130–135 million years ago (mya), mid-Cretaceous Burmese deposits of some 99–105 mya, and Late Cretaceous Canadian deposits of 77–79 mya. Other . . .

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