Thursday, August 25, 2005

Picking Nits. No, the Other Kind.

Teaching preschool means never needing to say you're healthy. Having a girlfriend who teaches preschool means phone calls that start, "You have head lice."

I was taught that head lice, body lice, and pubic lice -- crabs -- were different species. There's now dispute about that, and also some interesting work using louse DNA to ask just how friendly Neanderthals and Homo erectus got.

This latest encounter leaves me wondering a few new things:

Is "protection against head lice" a selective pressure that helped establish male pattern baldness? Lack of facial hair in orientals/amerinds?

Do head lice live in beards? Is that a reason people started shaving? Removing body hair is common in Eastern cultures: did lice help drive this?

Why aren't lice important disease vectors? Fleas certainly are. To generalize it a little, insects generally are, why aren't arachnids? Or are they?

A quick google raises another surprising question: why are there too many female lice?

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