Lice eggs reveal details about South American mummies

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from South and North America today are faced with the fact that they cannot study the ancient mummies of the indigenous people. After all, they believe that they disturb the memory of their ancestors. Sampling for DNA analysis is actually quite destructive for the mummy, as it is taken from the inside of the skull and from the teeth: this can affect scientific results.

However, most people had head lice thousands of years ago. It was to them that a team of scientists from the universities of Copenhagen (Denmark), Reading, Bangor (Great Britain), San Juan (Argentina) and other scientific organizations drew attention.

More precisely, not even on them, but on glue, with the help of which insects glue nits to human hair. Scientists have extracted DNA from it. Samples belong to mummified remains from Argentina, 1500-2000 years old, as well as the ancient people of Jivaroa from Amazonian Ecuador. In addition, they were extracted from the textiles of mummies from Chile.

It turned out that this analysis is even better than many other methods . The glue of nits contained the same amount of DNA as teeth, twice as much as bone remains, and four times as much as blood from lice from mummies of a later period.

An analysis of the nits’ deoxyribonucleic acid glue told scientists about the sex of the mummies and the genetic link between the three of them and the Amazon people who lived there 2,000 years ago. In addition, they learned that all the remains studied belong to the founders of the mitochondrial lineages in South America.

Morphological analysis of the eggs, in turn, showed that all the deceased were probably exposed to extremely low temperatures at the time of death (which, apparently, was one of its causes).

This is indicated by a very small gap between the scalp and the place where the nits are attached to the hair shaft: in cold conditions, lice try to keep their eggs warm, so they lay them closer to the skin. The work was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution .


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