Begbugs are one of the parasites that people find most disturbing, right up there with head lice. Scientists thought for a long time that the first hosts for parasitic bedbugs were bats indicating that bedbugs had been around for 50-60 million years. New research shows that bedbugs are much older than previously thought and may have crawled the planet with the dinosaurs. Researchers from an international team, including scientists from the University of Sheffield, have compared the DNA of dozens of bedbug species.
The goal of the research was to understand the evolutionary relationships within the group as well as their relationship with humans. The team found that bedbugs are older than bats and evolved some 50 million years before bats arrived. The evolutionary history of bedbugs is said to be far more complex than previously thought.
While the team says that the bedbug was alive when the T-rex was walking the Earth, more research is needed to figure out what its host was at that time. Current understanding says that it is unlikely that the creatures fed on the blood of dinosaurs. The reasoning for that assumption is that Bedbugs feed on animals that have a home such as a nest or a burrow or in the case of humans – a bed. Dinosaurs never adopted that mode of life, according to scientists.
One scientist says that after the surprise of learning that bedbugs were much older than bats, the second surprise was learning that the bedbugs were already specialized on a single host type even though the team has no idea what the host was.
The team also notes that the two major bedbug species that plague humans – tropical and common bedbugs – are much older than humans. The research the scientists are doing into what makes the bedbug an effective pest will help the team find new ways to control them.