In what might be one of the grossest and most intriguing research cases I’ve read about this year, scientists have started using lice DNA to help them learn more about ancient humans, including when different groups of humans arrived in the Americas.
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I could make a joke about how this dilemma has left scientists scratching their heads, but the Smithsonian already beat me to that punch. Still, it is intriguing that scientists have been able to look at the DNA of these annoying little bugs to learn when humans first arrived on our small piece of the planet.
The first humans to arrive in America left behind tons of scattered evidence – including some ancient stone tools, fossilized footprints, and even their fossilized bones. But, genetic studies haven’t quite been able to map out exactly when and where the migrations took place. Luckily, lice DNA could hold the clue that scientists have been searching for.
According to a new piece of research published in PLOS One this week, researchers found two distinct clusters of louse, which suggests that the two clusters migrated to America with different human hosts. First, the East Asians were the first to colonize the Americas. It wasn’t until the European colonists started to arrive in the Americas thousands of years after the first group arrived that the second one appeared.
The researchers say that the Americas are the only place where these two types of lice crossbreed. This revelation, the researchers note, sheds light on the human journey around our world. Further, some researchers believe that lice DNA and evolution may have even more clues to offer us, especially about how humanity evolved all those years ago.
DNA studies of two common types of lice have shown that they diverged greatly from each other roughly 190,000 years ago. Researchers say that this was around the time when human culture and history saw major changes. Because no clothing has survived from this era, we can only rely on the DNA of lice to tell us about the changes and development that took place.
The post Scientists are using lice DNA to learn more about ancient human history appeared first on BGR.