Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sympatric Gorillas and Chimpanzees, a Question of Lice and a Clue to the Origin of Homo Sapiens

Sympatric is a "new" word for many. Google define results in:
  1. (of animals or plants, esp. of related species or populations) Occurring within the same geographical area; overlapping in distribution.
  2. (of speciation) Taking place without geographical separation."
So what does "sympatric" have to do with lice and the origin of species?

One of the remarkable things about science is that answers to troublesome questions often are found in the unlikeliest places.

Lice provide a good example of an unexpected clue to homo sapiens (i.e. mankind as a species).

As noted at the University of Florida News in
Human pubic lice acquired from gorillas gives evolutionary clues
discussing the research of "David Reed, assistant curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History":
"Reed and his co-workers’ research stemmed from their fascination with humans' unique position among primates in being host to two different kinds of lice: one on the head and body (Pediculus), which has become the bane of many schoolchildren, and pubic or crab lice (Pthirus). In contrast, chimps have only head lice and gorillas pubic lice." (emphasis and italics added) 
The question of why chimpanzees have only Pediculus and gorillas have only Pthirus, while humans can be infested with both types of lice, has puzzled the genetic community.

As written by Scott Norris at National Geographic news in
Gorillas Gave Pubic Lice to Humans, DNA Study Reveals:
"The transfer occurred about 3.3 million years ago, said study leader David Reed, of the University of Florida in Gainesville. That's when the gorilla louse and the human pubic louse separated into distinct species, the research revealed.

Modern humans (Homo sapiens) weren't around at the time. So the first to be infested by the new lice species were probably Australopithecus, a group of human ancestors that include the famous "Lucy" fossil."
But what about head and body lice and their infestation of chimpanzees?

Why and how did humans get and keep BOTH lice types, whereas each appears to be a specialized form originally adapted to either gorilla or chimp but not both?

The John Hawks weblog has discussion of possible solutions at
Three million years of unwanted guests. None of them fits exactly.

One solution, not considered there, is found at LexiLine. Take a look.

Gorillas and Chimpanzees are "sympatric" in only one region of Africa, and that is precisely the region in which Australopithecus has been found.

Perhaps a hybridization of gorilla and chimp might be the answer.

Most Popular Posts of All Time

Sky Earth Native America

Sky Earth Native America 1:
American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
Volume 1, Edition 2, 266 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Sky Earth Native America 2:
    American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
    Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
    Volume 2, Edition 2, 262 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Both volumes have the same cover except for the labels "Volume 1" viz. "Volume 2".
    The image on the cover was created using public domain space photos of Earth from NASA.


    Both book volumes contain the following basic book description:
    "Alice Cunningham Fletcher observed in her 1902 publication in the American Anthropologist
    that there is ample evidence that some ancient cultures in Native America, e.g. the Pawnee in Nebraska,
    geographically located their villages according to patterns seen in stars of the heavens.
    See Alice C. Fletcher, Star Cult Among the Pawnee--A Preliminary Report,
    American Anthropologist, 4, 730-736, 1902.
    Ralph N. Buckstaff wrote:
    "These Indians recognized the constellations as we do, also the important stars,
    drawing them according to their magnitude.
    The groups were placed with a great deal of thought and care and show long study.
    ... They were keen observers....
    The Pawnee Indians must have had a knowledge of astronomy comparable to that of the early white men."
    See Ralph N. Buckstaff, Stars and Constellations of a Pawnee Sky Map,
    American Anthropologist, Vol. 29, Nr. 2, April-June 1927, pp. 279-285, 1927.
    In our book, we take these observations one level further
    and show that megalithic sites and petroglyphic rock carving and pictographic rock art in Native America,
    together with mounds and earthworks, were made to represent territorial geographic landmarks
    placed according to the stars of the sky using the ready map of the starry sky
    in the hermetic tradition, "as above, so below".
    That mirror image of the heavens on terrestrial land is the "Sky Earth" of Native America,
    whose "rock stars" are the real stars of the heavens, "immortalized" by rock art petroglyphs, pictographs,
    cave paintings, earthworks and mounds of various kinds (stone, earth, shells) on our Earth.
    These landmarks were placed systematically in North America, Central America (Meso-America) and South America
    and can to a large degree be reconstructed as the Sky Earth of Native America."