The World’s Oldest Vampire

June12016This week scientists have found evidence of vampiric behavior dating back to 740 million years ago, but not the kind of vampires you might be imagining. In fact, these vampires are teeny tiny amoebas that lived long before the famed Edwards and Draculas of our favorite books and films. These microscopic creatures left evidence of their existence in tiny holes they drilled in shells of other amoebas to consume their insides. (Their insides in this case being cellular contents such as the nucleus and mitochondria instead of blood). These holes are the earliest known example of predatory behavior in eukaryotes (single-celled organisms) ever found, and will help scientists understand how predator-prey behavior evolved in the Earth’s ancient ecosystems. Around 800 million years ago there was an enormous diversification in eukaryotes living in the primordial seas, and the lead scientist Susannah Porter (from UC Santa Barbara) is excited to learn whether the appearance of these vampire microbes played a role. For me, these amoebas and their modern-day relatives are going on the list of things I avoid, right next to mosquitoes and ticks.

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June 1, 2016

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