Monday, June 21, 2004

Ancient Lice Just in case you were wondering, it seems that lice are a lot older than previously thought. A recently discovered, 44 million year-old fossil louse has turned up, causing some excitement among entomologists. Discover magazine has the story.

The 44-million-year-old relic strongly resembles the modern, feather-munching version that infests ducks and other shorebirds and is a relative of the bloodsuckers that plague mammals. “Despite the age of this fossil, its close relationship to modern lice means we have to rethink the age for this group of parasites,” says Vincent Smith, a University of Glasgow entomologist studying the specimen. Previously, such lice were thought to have evolved only 10 million years ago.