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DNA Study Reveals Gorillas Gave Pubic Lice to Humans

March 22, 2007
clipped from news.nationalgeographic.com


What exactly went on between gorillas and early humans? No one knows for sure, but scientists say one thing, at least, seems certain: The big apes gave us pubic lice.


The transfer occurred about 3.3 million years ago, said study leader David Reed, of the University of Florida in Gainesville. That’s when the gorilla louse and the human pubic louse separated into distinct species, the research revealed.


Pubic lice are spread most commonly through sexual contact, but that’s not necessarily how our ancestors acquired the parasite from gorillas.


A more likely scenario, though, is that early humans picked up the parasites simply by living in close proximity to gorillas, perhaps using the animals’ sleeping sites or scavenging gorilla remains, he said.

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