Where Do Lice Come From?

Where do lice come from?

Human head lice are categorized into clades based on their genetic makeup. A clade is a group of organisms that are not genetically identical to one another, but share a common ancestor.

The clades of human head lice, named A, B, and C, have different geographic distribution and varying genetic characteristics.

According to the Journal of Parasitology, Clade B head lice originated in North America, but migrated to farther reaches of the world, including Australia and Europe.

Head lice are thought to have separated from body lice, a similar yet distinct species, a little more than 100,000 years ago.

The discovery of genetic differences between head and body lice supports theories that this time period is when people began wearing clothing.

While head lice remained on the scalp, body lice mutated into a parasite with claws that can grab on to the smoother fibers of clothing rather than needle-thin hair shafts.


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