July 13, 2012

How Lice Can Shed Light on the Past

Paleo-anthropologists believe Homo sapiens evolved in Africa 100 – 200 thousand years ago, and eventually moved out of Africa to populate the globe. But, how can researchers trace the specifics of that human migration? With support from the National Science Foundation, Florida Museum of Natural History Mammologist David Reed has undertaken a novel approach. He studies the genetic diversity and evolution of the human parasite that hitched a ride the whole way: lice. He gathers samples from around the world. Over the years, the lice evolved in parallel with their human hosts, but actually even faster, meaning studying the differences between lice from different geographic regions can actually provide insights into how and when human populations migrated into those areas.  credit:  NSF

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