Scientists have found out which animals first appeared blood-sucking lice

(ORDO NEWS) — Blood-sucking lice first appeared in the superorder of African animals, which today includes jumpers, hyraxes and elephants, experts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found out in collaboration with colleagues from Spain and South Africa.

The researchers analyzed the genomes and lineages of lice and their mammalian hosts and found that around 100 million years ago, lice appeared to be parasites of birds or dinosaurs, but later switched to mammals.

Lice are divided into two groups depending on their eating habits – lice, which feed on skin and secretions, and blood-sucking lice, the authors explained. Both of them parasitize mammals, but the latter do not parasitize any other classes of animals.

The appearance of blood-sucking lice turned out to be associated with the evolution of the superorder Afrotheria – mammals, the early representatives of which appeared about 65 million years ago on the territory of modern Africa.

Today, afrotherias include small animals like jumpers and hyraxes, as well as elephants and even sea cows. The lice of hyraxes, jumpers and elephants turned out to be the most ancient.

“Mammal-specific lice appeared in this group of African animals and then switched to other mammals,” the authors of the work noted.

The transition of parasites from birds to mammals is a very rare phenomenon, the authors of the work noted.

But, once the lice adapted to parasitizing afrotheria, it became easier for them to move from one mammalian species to another. The analysis showed that, as some groups of mammals separated, for example, geographically, so did the genetic lines of lice.

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