Lice will reveal the mysteries of our ancestors – RB

Lice will reveal the mysteries of our ancestors – RB

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of our ancestors – RB

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Lice will reveal the mysteries of our ancestors – RB


The glue that holds louse eggs together can tell us more about the evolution of a bone remnant: the mysteries of our ancestors will be revealed by lice

January 1st 2022

There are still many mysteries of human evolution , and they are still there are so many things we do not know about our ancestors. What was their biology, what evolutionary differences, what changed in their genes when they stopped living in trees and started living on the ground, or why we don’t have a tail. Of course, many discoveries have also been made recently: for example, the oldest tomb of a newborn was found in Italy.

Fossils, bones and materials from that time can help, but scientists have recently discovered a new possible ally: the lice .

Lice to the rescue of scientists

It all started with a discovery by a group of researchers who were studying mummified human remains found in South America dating back to 1500 – 2000 Years ago. On the bones was found human DNA , and in particular in the sticky “cement” that lice use to attach their eggs to their hair of human beings.

The amount of human DNA found in this substance is equal to that found in a tooth, and double that found in the hard bones of the skull. Furthermore it keeps much better .

The team of researchers from the UK, Denmark and Argentina managed to extract not only human nuclear DNA, but also mitochondrial DNA from the same lice, and they both tell the same story: those found are remains of a population that had migrated from the North-West of the Amazon to the Andes about two thousand years earlier.

Genetic analysis was also able to determine the sex of human remains found, and the location of the lice on the hair revealed that at the time of their death it was very cold .

What this discovery tells us

It is not the first time that parasites have been used to find human DNA and help evolution scientists, but it is the first time that lice and their “glue” have done so.

It is a very important discovery, because this cement helps to preserve a DNA which would otherwise be extremely fragile and difficult to extract.

“Using only a handful of hair to trace the genetic profile of a mummified remnant saves us from destroying bones and teeth that are unique ”explains Alejandra Perotti, a scientist at the University of Reading who led the research. “In addition, it allows us to respect the traditions of the indigenous peoples, who are often closely linked to mummies and corpses” he adds.

Furthermore, this new method could help biologists solve the secrets of human evolution in America which, unlike that in $pe and Asia, remains mysterious.

Sure, finding mummified louse eggs on skeletal remains is difficult, but museums around the world are filled with mummified remains and objects and items of clothing that are potentially full of lice.