-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [evol-psych] Lice genes date first human clothes
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2003 08:07:58 +0100
From: Ian Pitchford <ian.pitchford@...>
Reply-To: Ian Pitchford <ian.pitchford@...>
Organization: http://human-nature.com
To: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com

Nature Science Update

Lice genes date first human clothes
Garments appeared 70,000 years ago, suggests parasite DNA.
20 August 2003

We started wearing clothes about 70,000 years ago - at least according to our
lice genes.

At that time the body louse (Pediculus humanus humanus) evolved from the head
louse (P. humanus capitis), say Mark Stoneking and his colleagues at the Max
Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. The split
should correspond to the time when the body louse's habitat - clothes - became

Inventing clothes may have spurred our ancestors' spread into colder climates.
Archaeological and genetic evidence points to modern humans having left Africa
50,000-100,000 years ago. "It's an astonishingly good fit with the origin of
body lice," says Stoneking.

"It all makes sense very nicely - it's about when you'd expect humans to be
picking up clothing," says evolutionary biologist Blair Hedges of Pennsylvania
State University. Evidence of weaving, in the form of clay bearing the imprint
of cloth, dates back 27,000 years. The oldest needles are about 40,000 years

The first clothes were presumably animal skins. But today's lice live on woven
fabrics, and it's unclear whether they infest fur coats, says louse expert
Chris Lyal of the Natural History Museum in London. "If lice can live on furs,
they could have exploited [clothes] as soon as we started sticking them on our
bodies," he says.

Full text


Kittler, R., Kayser, M. Stoneking, M. Molecular evolution of Pediculus
humanus and the origin of clothing. Current Biology, 13, 1414 - 1417, (2003).

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