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Home / Science / The 16,000-year-old Puma Poop delivers a sample of Ice Age parasites

The 16,000-year-old Puma Poop delivers a sample of Ice Age parasites



  Despite their size, pumas are technically not
Enlarge / Despite their size, pumas are technically not "big cats", a title reserved for the Pantherinae family.

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Big cats and small worms

Mitochondrial DNA from the coprolite itself revealed what had left proof: a puma, the largest member of the family Felidae, which also includes domestic cats. The dried-up business card showed that Ice Age pumas shared the southernmost part of South America with huge ground sloths, now extinct American horses and relatives of modern alpacas and lamas. It also offers a selection of the less charismatic part of the ecosystem: the parasites that infected the local megafauna. The combination is a snapshot of the complex, untouched world population that first appeared about 15,000 years ago (as far as we know, the timeline of human habitation is regularly revised as new locations emerge).

The 64 tiny roundworm eggs mixed with the remnants of the Pleistocene Puma's last meal can tell us something about how the parasites and their hosts have developed together over the last thousand years. The roundworm Toxascaris leonina lives most of its life in conjunction with the intestinal mucosa of carnivores such as cats, dogs and foxes, where it can cause diarrhea, vomiting and other unpleasant digestive symptoms. Animals pick up the 7-10 cm (3-4 in.) Tall passengers when they eat an infected rodent – where larvae sometimes wait for a better host – or swallow a bit of eggfilled dung (each with a dog and a cat litter box in the Cat toilet) The same house knows that these things happen.

Although the new find shows that T. leonina is an ancient pest, the roundworm still infects regularly modern pets and wild carnivores. It is so common among domestic cats and dogs that scientists until recently thought that domestic carnivores had originally transmitted the parasites primarily to their wild neighbors. But if pumas in Argentina had bowels full of T. leonina before humans and their domesticated dogs made it so far south, it can not have been the fault of pets.

"The usual interpretation is the present of t. leonina in american wild carnivores today is a consequence of their contact with domestic dogs or cats, "said petrigh ars," but that should no longer be taken as the only possible explanation. "

  the object on the left is a 16,500-year-old cougar coprolite, the object on the right is a roundworm egg, T. leonina eggs are 70-99 microns in diameter.

The object on the left is 16,500 years old old cougar coprolite The object on the right is a roundworm egg, T. leonina eggs have a diameter of 70 to 99 microns.

Romina S. Petrigh et al.

Consider them stinking time capsules.

If Looking at the picture above, you probably only see a dried-up piece of cat feces (sorry, not sorry). Biologists like Petrigh and her colleagues see a reservoir of information about ancient ecology and the long, complex evolutionary history of parasites and their hosts Archaeologists and biologists have studied parasitic eggs of human and animal coprolites, of ancient latrines, in the soil of archaeological tombs and even of mummified peoples' digestive tracts The discoverer might have come up with it – Petrigh and her colleagues hope for similar finds from the area. "Our goal is to compare old DNA sequences from T. leonina eggs from argentina found in other archeological sites, "petrigh told ars. The team also has other coprolites from the Peñas de las Trampas, which can also be studied. Some of them may come from humans.

Parasitology 2019. DOI: 10.1017 / S0031182019000787 (Information on DOIs).


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