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The Coevolution of Lice & Their Hosts

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the lets-be-adults-about-this-everyone dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 179

eldavojohn writes "It might be an uncomfortable subject but parasites are an interesting subject when it comes to evolution. Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice? Well, they do. And most interesting of all is the evolution of these lice mirroring the evolution of gophers. To study the genes of lice may shed just as much light on evolutionary trees as studying the genes of the actual host the lice has evolved to. The most unsettling result from these studies is that human head lice and human pubic lice (crabs) vary so greatly that they are in two separate genera. There were similarities between our pubic lice and the lice found on gorillas. Scientists came to the conclusion, which they published today in BMC Biology, is just as striking as their earlier one about head lice. But it is hardly the same. We did not get pubic lice from other hominids. We got them from the ancestors of gorillas."

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Gorilla / Human lovin'? (2, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271940)

We did not get pubic lice from other hominids. We got them from the ancestors of gorillas.

Did anyone else read that line and think that this was article could have some link to the Monkey's Uncle [slashdot.org] (proto chimp/proto human interbreeding) story from a while ago on slashdot?

Afraid not, TFA states:

Is this evidence of a Pliocene love that dare not speak its name? Not according to Reed. He and his colleagues suggest that hominids might have gotten crabs by eating gorilla flesh, perhaps scavenging a carcass. Or they might have slept at nesting sites that gorillas contaminated with their lice. This study just so happens to have come out a few months after another team of scientists showed that [nature.com] chimpanzees not only gave humans HIV but also gave gorillas a related strain of the virus. If chimpanzees can give gorillas a blood-borne virus, it's not too surprising that gorillas could give hominids some lice.
Anyway, best article linked from /. in ages. Great, thought provoking read.

I'm going to wonder whether there were savanna gorillas or deep Forest hominids all night now :-)

Re:Gorilla / Human lovin'? (1)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271998)

and the creationist crowd says:

Not only do they say we descended from apes, but we also got their crabs.

I can see them freaking out on this

Re:Gorilla / Human lovin'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272608)

Take that monkey man!

Re:Gorilla / Human lovin'? (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272266)

FTFA: He and his colleagues suggest that hominids might have gotten crabs by eating gorilla flesh, perhaps scavenging a carcass.

      This speculation makes more sense than a hominid might have laid down and slept where a gorilla slept?

      For an internal assimilation such as AIDS I understand, but what's so hard to figure out about this?

  rd

Re:Gorilla / Human lovin'? (2, Funny)

tansey (238786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272296)

Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street
From my window I'm staring while my coffee grows cold
Look over there! (Where?)
There's a lady that I used to know
She's married now, or engaged, or something, so I am told

Is she really going out with him?
Is she really gonna take him home tonight?
Is she really going out with him?
'Cause if my eyes don't deceive me,
There's something going wrong around here


It's amazing how accurate Joe Jackson can be.

Re:Gorilla / Human lovin'? (3, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272624)

Ohh. You said 'pubic lice'. I misread the post. I thought you'd said "RIAA". Never mind.

Wait a sec... (1)

freeze128 (544774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272858)

We did not get pubic lice from other hominids. We got them from the ancestors of gorillas.
Well, isn't that what evolution is? Maybe humans and gorillas share a common ancestor. (Well, DUH!)

I can imagine one of two scenarios:

1. Humans evolved from the same primates as gorillas, and the lice just stuck with us the whole time.

2. Some human had sex with a gorilla.

I just want to know why the christians want to believe number 2 over number 1.

Re:Wait a sec... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273128)

I can imagine one of two scenarios:

1. Humans evolved from the same primates as gorillas, and the lice just stuck with us the whole time.

2. Some human had sex with a gorilla.
..... Can't it be both?

Re:Wait a sec... (1)

chawly (750383) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273650)

To my mind, you missed the third possibility - that some gorilla had sex with a human. I know some folks who'd like to include the film in their porn collection. In fact, both films

Re:Gorilla / Human lovin'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272874)

If it was Human-Gorilla love, then the question is: Was it our Daddy^n or our Momma^n that did the dirty?

hmmmmm (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271946)

There were similarities between our pubic lice and the lice found on gorillas.

Look, I don't know what these scientists have been doing with the gorillas in this study, but this seems like evidence of *something*.

Uncle Fucka... (-1, Offtopic)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271990)

South Park Uncle Fucka

Shut your fucking face uncle fucka
You're a cock sucking ass licking uncle fucka
You're an uncle fucka, yes its true
Nobody fucks uncles quite like you

Shut your fucking face uncle fucka
You're the one that fucked your uncle, uncle fucka
You dont eat or sleep or mow the lawn,
You just fuck your uncle all day long

Uhmm - 'nuf sed...

hmmmmm-I'll scratch your back, if you scratch... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272052)

It's called a job perk.

Re:hmmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272604)

Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape.

Re:hmmmmm (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272720)

Perhaps the evolutionary advantage of having lice is that it.. hmmm *scratches head*... it helps you think!

Not humans... a human. (3, Funny)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271952)

It's not that humans got crabs from gorillas. One human did. Skeezy McTarzan.

Re:Not humans... a human. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273458)

OI, I have never slept with no Gorilla, A few dogs maybe ...

Dude... (2, Funny)

Starburnt (860851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271980)

We did not get pubic lice from other hominids. We got them from the ancestors of gorillas." Just.... Dude.

hair shape (3, Interesting)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272000)

I heard somewhere and I believe it to be true that African Americans hair has a oval shape instead of round. For this reason the lice cant grab on, and they don't have lice problems.

Re:hair shape (1)

thePsychologist (1062886) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272168)

That's not true: read this article [findarticles.com] . It's rare but not impossible, and more common in other countries.

Re:hair shape (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272204)

Its true, from the article you listed: studies have found that up to 25% of white children have had head lice, compared to less than 1% of African American children

African American hair is more elliptical than white children's hair and head lice find it difficult to hold onto elliptical hair

Re:hair shape (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272294)

It depends on the values of "don't" and "true" that you use:

"In Africa, where the percentage of children with head lice is higher, lice have adapted their claws to better grasp elliptical hair"

Re:hair shape (4, Funny)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272380)

"In Africa, where the percentage of children with head lice is higher, lice have adapted their claws to better grasp elliptical hair"

It looks like its an arms race then.

Re:hair shape (5, Insightful)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272436)

It looks like its an arms race then.

That's exactly what parasite-host relationships are. Evolution isn't so much a march in a straight line, but a vicious cycle of decimation-immunization-regression to naivete-back to decimation, ie, the Red Queen hypothesis. The really interesting thing is the degree to which parasites have affected evolution. A lot of secondary sex characteristics, because of their biological expense, are really good indicators of parasite resistance.

Re:hair shape (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272450)

"arms" -> "claws"

It was a pun...

Re:hair shape (2, Funny)

rez_rat (1618) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272806)

JUST LIKE a Slashdot'ian to look down at the wierd things in his bush... and try to EXPLAIN them!!

I can't help it: "Just imagine a Beowolf cluster of these!!!"

haha

S-

Re:hair shape (1)

rez_rat (1618) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272912)

Now that I think about it...

I guess that they ARE a Beowulf cluster!!!

Re:hair shape (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272696)

It sounds like these kids get a break for being a minority in this case. In the US where African ancestry puts you in the minority, there might not be a big enough survival advantage for the necessary mutation to dominate the louse population. Even though there are pockets of the US where African ancestry is in the majority, the mutation may not have taken hold yet. If true, this might indicate that it takes a while for lice to evolve this feature. To really answer that question though, we should do a comparison in school districts where African ancestry is in the majority, and has been for quite some time.

Re:hair shape (3, Informative)

Arker (91948) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273344)

It all goes back to the very tight coupling between parasite and host. Even tiny differences between different populations in a host species are mirrored in parasite populations. So lice populations found among hosts of European ancestry have a difficult time with African hair forms. African lice populations, however, do not. Apparently lice populations in North America are mostly of European derivation, but that is far from true in other areas.

Re:hair shape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273664)

This is a racist comment. Any further consideration of this subject is barred.

Stop thinking immediately.

Present yourself to your local thought control office so that your brain can be re-aligned.

Why is it unsettling? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272006)

The most unsettling result from these studies is that human head lice and human pubic lice (crabs) vary so greatly that they are in two separate genera.

I can imagine this being disturbing to the worldwide syndicate of 69ers, but why is it unsettling for the general populace?

Dating the first clothing (4, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272014)

I remember something from my days of getting an anthropology degree where some scientists was trying to guess the approximate date when humans first started wearing clothing. Tools made from bone and rock last a long time, so you can easily get a good idea of when people started making new types of tools. But stuff like clothing, rope, or weaving rots away pretty quickly, so finding them in archaeological digs is pretty rare.

IIRC, there are two types of lice or fleas. One kind lived on human skin and hair, and the other preferred clothing and blankets and lived only in artificial fabrics. The scientists were trying to see when the fabric-preferring bugs diverged from a common ancestor by examining the genetics. Really clever!

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272214)

"One kind lived on human skin and hair, and the other preferred clothing and blankets and lived only in artificial fabrics. "

That's why you should never buy that tacky polyester K-Mart sh*t. Get natural fabrics.

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272264)

All fabrics are artificial.. I don't think I've ever seen a blanket or a shirt tree.

Kinda reminds me of people who complain about fruit having "chemicals" in them.

Re:Dating the first clothing (2, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272316)

"All fabrics are artificial.. I don't think I've ever seen a blanket or a shirt tree."

You're confusing the thing with what its made of. While there aren't "blanket trees," there certainly ARE cotton plants, and wool occurs naturally as well - ask any sheep. So you can make blankets and clothing out of cotton, or wool, or any other naturally-occuring fibre - but you won't find any naturally-occuring polyester. And don't get me started on how many naugas you have to kill to get even one decent naugahide.

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272440)

The question then becomes what the OP meant by "artificial fabric"...

Artifact (0)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273226)

an artifact is something made by human hands. So all fabric before the industrial revolution is "artificial".

Re:Dating the first clothing (3, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272268)

This is really interesting. There are other things where we know what the change was, and when it happened that might affect evolution in some species. I wonder if anyone is studying them.

My thoughts: The widespread use of DDT is a known event that had wide ranging affects on the environment. Are there evident evolutionary effects on insects?
Does anyone study what the common cold looks like after many attempts to inoculate us against it?

I wonder if there are defined evolutionary differences in any species after the plagues?

Interestingly, we apparently don't even know if the food we eat today has the same nutritional value of the food that humans were eating 100 years ago.

Very interesting.

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273480)

Does anyone study what the common cold looks like after many attempts to inoculate us against it?

IANAS, but I would hazard the answer to this is "yes," but that the results are inconclusive. The whole problem with the common cold, what makes it so difficult to inoculate against, is that it routinely "looks like" so many different things that we can't come up with a vaccine that will "recognize" them all.

Re:Dating the first clothing (2, Interesting)

rez_rat (1618) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272892)

So why do all those cavemen (cavewomen?) women wear bras, and men don't?

Seriously... in the study of ancient clothing... was it really that important for a woman to cover up her upper parts?? On the other hand (hehe), was this just something we devised later on? :-P

Sounds stupid, but, ... I'm curious.

S-

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

rez_rat (1618) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272962)

Really.

To follow this. What IS the purpose of clothing? I can see the purpose of loincloths. They protect against gettin' hit by lots of things! haha But, "pants" "trousers" and "blouses" (or whatever all you Europeans call them)...

Why?

In my culture. We shed our clothing when we participate in our traditional rituals; including ceremonies where we sit together in groups and sing songs, take sweat baths (super hot saunas), and make protection prayers upon one another.

I for one... ( and this is not one of those "I for one" jokes)
I for one... would like to know how some of these anthropolegic (sp?) theories came to be. Please. If anyone cares to comment.. Please be willing to take a 140+ degree Navajo sweat bath.

S-

Re:Dating the first clothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273342)

In my part of the world (central Europe), the primary purpose of clothes is to keep you warm, since it can get quite cold in winter, and even in summer it is not really warm enough to do without. Also, as Caucasians our skin is more sensitive to sunlight than those of folks who live closer to the equator, and the sun can be quite intense here if you expose yourself to the sun directly.

Re:Dating the first clothing (2, Funny)

hazem (472289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273710)

Ever try cooking bacon naked? THAT's why we have clothes.

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

HeadlessNotAHorseman (823040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273036)

Maybe the lice are related to when we first wore clothing. Head lice can easily jump off your head onto other surfaces or people, but when one is wearing clothing, pubic lice cannot. So maybe once we started wearing clothing, the head lice could no longer do their little jumping trick anymore unless they were on your head, so they stopped living in the nether regions. That left no competition for pubic lice, who were happy to spread through sexual contact (perverts!)

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273530)

Gorilla skins are probably the best "off the rack" fit nature provides, let's face it - Chimpas are too small and the sleaves on an Oragutang are way too long.

Seriously though, INA-Anthorpologist but I would have thought that prototype clothing was made from animal skins? Early Europeans are known to have used whale skins to make portable huts and what little is left of tribal cultures today still wear animal skins or plated leaves.

TFA - Another thing to take into consideration is that tribal people have a strong tendancy to look at other tribes as an inferior race of humans. The point here is that tribes who come into regular contact with great apes refer to them as an inferior tribe.

Disclaimer: I don't subscribe to racisim but I acknowledge I live inside the MonkeySphere [pointlesswasteoftime.com] .

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

Lars Arvestad (5049) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273642)

The clothing dating you are referring to was actually also featured on Slashdot [slashdot.org] under the Best /. Headline Ever: Pants Were Optional, 100,000 Years Ago.

That paper, with its abstract available from PubMed [nih.gov] , was from Mark Stoneking's group and I believe they said in interviews that they intended to pursue studying the difference between head lice and pubic lice to figure out when we lost our fur. So maybe this result tells us why there was no follow-up paper: The data could not be used to address that issue.

Well, maybe I should the paper. After I am done posting at /. of course!

Re:Dating the first clothing (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273768)

IIRC, there are two types of lice or fleas. One kind lived on human skin and hair, and the other preferred clothing

RTFA. There are three types: Head, pubic, clothing.

Incoming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272026)

/.'ers are going to have a field day with this story.

That was the origin of that phrase (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272042)

Long before it was used in terms of addictions, "I've got a monkey on my back" used to refer to having sex with a gorilla.

Kinda speculative (1)

Lawn Jocke (1064716) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272076)

Hate to be the naysayer of the group, but this seems pretty speculative to me. The connection between the gorilla strain of lice and the human head lice is an interesting observation, but that doesn't necessarily mean all that was claimed. I'm not dismissing the theory, but there is not enough evidence to sell me on this one. Does the premise sound good? Yes, but that is hardly enough to justify the evolutionary links between lice and the various branches of primates.

Kinda vague. (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272490)

I can't tell what you're refuting. Are you refuting...

  • ...that humans evolved from gorillas? (Not claimed in TFA.)
  • ...that humans had sexual relations with gorillas? (not claimed in TFA.)
  • ...that humans contracted lice from consuming gorilla corpses? (as suggested by TFA.)

"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (5, Funny)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272118)

To be perfectly honest ... um, let me think about this ... no.

Re:"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (3, Funny)

dnc253 (1039198) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272282)

Are you kidding me?! This question has been plaguing me for weeks! Thank goodness I now know the answer so I can finally get some sleep!

Re:"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (3, Insightful)

Frogbert (589961) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272346)

Further to that...

What the fuck is a pocket gopher?

Re:"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272600)

Re:"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272700)

What the fuck is a pocket gopher?

Sounds like something Richard Gere would buy and carry around in his coat pocket.

Re:"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273434)

No, that would be a pocket gerbil. Get your urban mythology straight.

Re:"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272950)

I know -my- pocket gopher doesn't have lice, but if someone's pocket gopher did happen to have lice, wouldn't they by definition be pubic lice? Sigh, you kids and your euphemisms.

Re:"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (4, Funny)

modecx (130548) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272998)

My pocket gopher had lice once. It was very irritated.

Re:"Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?" (1)

Unique2 (325687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273772)

Not half as irritating as having an angry gopher in your pocket.

Pocket gophers. (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272188)

Huh huh. You said.. "pocket gopher".

Re:Pocket gophers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272536)

My... uh... "pocket gopher" got lice once from a skanky chick I met on a pub crawl in Austin TX, but my doctor gave me a spray can of stuff that got rid of them right away.

Re:Pocket gophers. (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273114)

I hate to admit it, but that was the first thought I had, too.

"Is that a gopher in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"

Fucking crabs... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272218)

So, about ten or twelve years ago I hook up with this skank from Montreal. She was a hottie, great in the sack, and loved it up the ass. A couple of weeks after I met her, I experienced major ball itch. I'm like scratching down there all the time. One time, alone in bed reading, I scratch like mad and find what looks like an insect leg in my fingernail.

Fuck, I've got the fucking crabs.

I thought I had jock itch and had been spraying my junk with Cruex, but that only made the crabs mad. I could see them climbing through my white-powdered pubes.

The only resort was to shave myself from nose to toes. I looked like a fucking toddler, but the itching stopped.

And yes, I had to replace my futon, get new sheets, and boil my underwear and jeans. Hell of a price to pay for some Montreal trim.

Could have been worse, though.

Regards,
Crabman

I don't see the link ! (1)

ntboz (873457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272222)

Where is the link to Lawyers ?? I would have thought that all parasites were geneticaly related?

Evidence of Intelligent Design (0, Flamebait)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272242)

The all powerful one is known to be against that nasty bahaviour known as "s*x" (except when used to go forth and multiply of course). He produced pubic lice as a punishment for those engaging in this disgusting activity.

Re:Evidence of Intelligent Design (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272664)

The all powerful one is known to be against that nasty bahaviour known as "s*x" (except when used to go forth and multiply of course). He produced pubic lice as a punishment for those engaging in this disgusting activity.

We can test this. Have gay sex with a dirty ape while gambling, drinking, and cussing and see if you get struck by lighting and hurricanes more often then those having Brady-Bunch-Mormon-style relationships.
     

Re:Evidence of Intelligent Design (1)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273524)

We can test this. Have gay sex with a dirty ape while gambling, drinking, and cussing and see if you get struck by lighting and hurricanes more often then those having Brady-Bunch-Mormon-style relationships.
Wouldn't the sample size be too small to deliver a significant result? (I am referring to the Brady-Bunch-Mormon sample, of course.)

Re:Evidence of Intelligent Design (1)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273602)

I prefer to think of it as God giving us little friends so we'll never be lonely.

how were our ancestors to know that (1)

alizard (107678) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273796)

"going forth and multiplying" only works when one tries to multiply with one's own species?

So many responses, so little time... (5, Funny)

jpellino (202698) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272344)

"We did not get pubic lice from other hominids. We got them from the ancestors of gorillas."

#10. Speak for yourself, professor.

#9. "coyote-ugly", move over...

#8. Shhh... Hear that? I think Dave Attell's head just exploded.

#7. Why is the waiting room empty? All I said was we...

#6. "Scratch-a while you can, monkey-boy!"

#5. Next on Springer...

#4. Time to bring the crab-infested brass monkeys in off the back porch, Radar.

#3. Yes, you heard me right, I need to get into those crabs' genes.

#2. Let's say we ask Jocelyn Elders to weigh in on this one.

and #1... Well I'll be a monkey's uncle, and a mighty itchy one at that.

(N.B., I know gorillas are apes not monkeys, so save the posting effort, it's just a freaking joke...)

Re:So many responses, so little time... (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272526)

(N.B., I know gorillas are apes not monkeys, so save the posting effort, it's just a freaking joke...)
Well, since that part doesn't appear to be a joke, I'll address it. Apes are really monkeys, if monkeys are to be considered a monophyletic group. Apes are within the old world monkey clade. And yes, we ARE evolved from monkeys, despite what many well meaning people defending Darwinism will tell you.

Uhh. (1)

Disharmony2012 (998431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272374)

Ever wonder if pocket gophers have lice?
Have you?!

Timing when we lost our hair (4, Insightful)

doubletruncation (939847) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272414)

From the article: "And then there is the matter of where the lice live. Today, lice live on little islands of hair on an ocean of hairless human skin. They are clearly adapted to our relatively hairless bodies. The authors suggest that their results may mean that hominids were already losing hair 3.3 million years ago. The gorilla lice needed an empty ecological niche--pubic hair--that they could occupy in order to survive. If hominids had full-body hair, the lice that already lived on it might have been able to outcompete an invader."

In my opinion this is one of the most interesting aspects of this research - being able to date when we started becoming hairless. It's always been a puzzle why we are relatively hairless compared to the other great apes, and I would guess that being able to put some time constraints on it is a step toward understanding how this happened.

Re:Timing when we lost our hair (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272486)

Well I don't see that it is THAT much of a puzzle as to why. I assume it is related to the invention of clothing. Clothes have a lot of advantages over fur, such as the ability to toss em in the fire when they get full of lice, to dry them when wet, to take them off when its hot, and put more on when cold. So once we had that, fur became a liability.

Re:Timing when we lost our hair (1)

doubletruncation (939847) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272598)

Perhaps, in that case they must have started wearing clothes at least three million years ago, whereas other lice evidence suggests that humans began wearing clothes 70000 years ago (e.g. http://www.headlice.org/news/2003/louseorigins.htm [headlice.org] ).

I've also seen the suggestion that the loss of hair was generally a by-product of selection for neoteny (baby chimps are relatively hairless), which itself was selected for because it meant humans would keep learning into adulthood.

Re:Timing when we lost our hair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272876)

Ever seen a pig wearing jeans?
There must at least be some other possible explanations.

Re:Timing when we lost our hair (1)

gobbo (567674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272594)

In my opinion this is one of the most interesting aspects of this research - being able to date when we started becoming hairless. It's always been a puzzle why we are relatively hairless compared to the other great apes, and I would guess that being able to put some time constraints on it is a step toward understanding how this happened.

And how about that head-hair, eh? In most straight-haired people, it grows to indeterminate length, until it gets cut or strangles its bearer. Where's the evolutionary advantage of that? What a weird design. I wonder if it's a product of culture working through evolution: the the need for hair grooming is part of the social pact, keeps us in the troupe. A deep syntax of the body?

Maybe head lice elicited the long, straight round hair in our genome. They certainly are specialized, can't survive anywhere else, and they're damn good at it. We coevolved somehow? Ever since I've read Lynn Margulis and learned about creepy crawlies like Toxoplasmosis, I don't put it past parasites to work changes on our genes, as part of a tendency by successful parasites towards symbiosis.

Re:Timing when we lost our hair (1)

dzimmerm (131384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272792)

Hair lasts between 2 to 6 years. Hair grows at about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch a month. This does result in a terminal hair length. Hair is not forever.

dzimmerm

Re:Timing when we lost our hair (2, Interesting)

dzimmerm (131384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272772)

My understanding was that sweating for cooling as we do is more efficient with less hair. Humans are designed to run long distances at a fairly high rate of speed. Many animals are faster in the short haul but humans can out run any creature on earth in the long haul. That running required better heat dissipation and so we lost our hair and sweated more.

Clothing and hair loss are not really related. Clothing and moving to to temperate and arctic climates are probably much more related.

dzimmerm

Re:Timing when we lost our hair (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272958)

Many animals are faster in the short haul but humans can out run any creature on earth in the long haul.

I think horses can usually outrun humans even for long distances. See also: Man versus Horse Marathon [wikipedia.org]

Re:Timing when we lost our hair (1)

rcolquhoun (659601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273784)


In my opinion this is one of the most interesting aspects of this research - being able to date when we started becoming hairless. It's always been a puzzle why we are relatively hairless compared to the other great apes, and I would guess that being able to put some time constraints on it is a step toward understanding how this happened.

The current theory is that humans lost their hair in order to be more resistant to parasites. You can still see this today in the large number of men(like 90%) shaving. And women regularly removing as much body hair as possible. When looking for sexual partners humans especially men regularly preferentially choose the least body hair possible.

For women this is especially important that they must show to males that they are parasite free and able to carry a baby to full term. The hair on the head is an exception, it takes quite a bit of effort to grow, usually 12 months of healthiness for shoulder length which seems most attractive in females ie about the same time as it would take to have a baby.

Competing theories about better tolerence of heat and for greater ability to swim have fallen in popularity to the above.

lice story after brain game controller... (2, Funny)

benow (671946) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272474)

think twice about who you share your brain bucket with.

We can see it right here on /. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18272540)

The coevolution of parasites and their hosts is admirably exemplified by the hordes of clueness do-nothing know-nothings who rush to offer hilariously foolish comments on slashdot.

Tip from your friendly neighborhood Spider Man (0, Offtopic)

winningham.2 (666628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272542)

What to do if you suddenly have a craving for bloody hair:

Symptom(s):
You wake up covered in a cool looking black spandex-like suit with the symbol of lice. You have superhuman itching powers. You have what looks to be snow drifts in your hair. You love bloody hair (both above and below the border).
Cause:
You are infected with the evolved Alien Symbiote version not mentioned in the article. It is believed this form came from outer-space however no wiki article or blog has yet to confirm this.
Treatment:
Climb the nearest bell tower and ring bell while you stand directly under it. Then remove weakened suit of black lice eggs and burn it. Next, take a shower and wash your nasty hair with gasoline. Finally, use some Axe body spray to hid the gas smell and to bring the ladies back.
Props to Stan Lee and Peter Parker!

Re:Tip from your friendly neighborhood Spider Man (1)

winningham.2 (666628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272566)

Update:
If your suit happens to have a gorilla or crab logo instead of normal lice, then please burn yourself immediately. If not, it will burn you.

The REAL Question of the Day!!... (0)

rez_rat (1618) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272572)

How does a Gorilla get crabs from YOU!!???

Re:The REAL Question of the Day!!... (2, Funny)

rez_rat (1618) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272758)

Oh,... and this is NOT a "In Soviet Russia" joke. :-P

Rather than read a second-hand account... (4, Informative)

GrumpySimon (707671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272878)

Rather than read a second-hand account (although Carl Zimmer is very good), the original article is open access and is available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/5/7/abstrac t [biomedcentral.com]

Conclusion:

Reconciliation analysis determines that there are two alternative explanations that account for the current distribution of anthropoid primate lice. The more parsimonious of the two solutions suggests that a Pthirus species switched from gorillas to humans. This analysis assumes that the divergence between Pediculus and Pthirus was contemporaneous with the split (i.e., a node of cospeciation) between gorillas and the lineage leading to chimpanzees and humans. Divergence date estimates, however, show that the nodes in the host and parasite trees are not contemporaneous. Rather, the shared coevolutionary history of the anthropoid primates and their lice contains a mixture of evolutionary events including cospeciation, parasite duplication, parasite extinction, and host switching. Based on these data, the coevolutionary history of primates and their lice has been anything but parsimonious.

another incorect assumption (0, Redundant)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272914)

Oh boy, here's my favorite scientific assumption about evolution! "Complicated animals with a large gene sets can evolve just the same as extremely small, simple animals!" In case you're not up to speed, only Adaptation is proven scientifically, evolution is a theory (evolution = change of one species into another completely different) Bacteria evolve in minutes because of their simplicity. Birds can change color and tiny little bugs like lice can randomly change usefully and then be more likely to live but that's way slower and less likely to happen. By the time you get to the mosquito, it's easy to see that evolution is ridiculous and impossible. A male and female mosquito would have had to evolved to have feet that stick to their prey, the big nose thingy to suck up the blood, a blood carrying pouch, and a reproductive system that requires blood from other animals within the same generation, and found each other, and had little mosquito babies that survived. Way up the complication table is monkeys turning into humans? Uhhhh I think not.

Re:another incorect assumption (2, Insightful)

mr_3ntropy (969223) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273204)

Sigh. Another sheep argument with Irreducible Complexity [wikipedia.org] . None of the candidates for this kind of "Gap" theology have stood up to scientific analysis. Other sheep have argued in a similar manner about the eye, the flagella, etc.

I wish Richard Dawkins was made required reading for all the misguided lambs every Saturday night before churchday.

Hand in there my friend, there is still hope. You can be saved.

Re:another incorect assumption (3, Funny)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273636)

Uhhhh I think not.

That was the only thing you said that made sense ;)

RE: Lice (1)

rez_rat (1618) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273046)

I'll let you guys know tomorrow. When I'm RID of it!!

haha

S-

Douglas Adams had it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273208)

The experiments are run by Lice.

oh noes, help Jodie (1)

freaker_TuC (7632) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273334)


Help Jodie Foster get RID of them!

At least now..... (1)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273340)

When my SO wonders where the crabs came from, I can mumble, "Ah, fucking gorillas."

first poskt!? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273528)

trouble. It is dying.Things Shall we? OK! best. Individuals website. Mr. de a super-organised Prefeerably with an Prospects are very

I wish... (1)

Cairnarvon (901868) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273842)

I wish people would stop confusing "hominid" with "human". Gorillas are hominids as well.

As my old parasitology lecturer said... (1)

jonny_boy27 (1071264) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273844)

...in his pathetic attempts to use powerpoint as a subliminal messaging system: "PARASITES RULE THE WORLD" but seriously, the co-evolution of parasitic invertebrates and higher species (coupled with the much higher reproduction rate of the parasites) in some cases can be a greater natural selection pressure than the classic predator/prey relationship that people always seem to think of first.
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