Head Lice Origins: Where did it all begin?


Head lice have evolved with humans and fossilized lice evidence can help scientists determine the migration patterns of early humans.
Head lice have evolved along with humans over tens of thousands of years. Fossilized lice evidence can help scientists determine the migration patterns of early humans.

Head Lice is a human parasite that feeds on our blood. There is no other known species that can host head lice, so you do not worry about your pets. They are primarily transferred from head-to-head contact. They cannot jump, fly, burrow or swim, and they cannot survive off their human host. Head lice do not live on objects, outdoors, in water and they are not airborne. They only live in our hair.  They can only be transferred from direct head-to-head contact with an infected person. So where did lice start?

Head lice are categorized in groups called clades, which are groups of organisms that are different but share the same ancestors. There are 3 clades of head lice, clade A, B and C. Clade A is the most common of the groups, thought to have started in the Americas before Columbus’s arrival and now has spread worldwide. Clade B also originated in America, and is now found in the Americas and Australia. Clade C is primarily only in Africa and Asia and is pretty much confined to these geographic areas. It is believed that clade B was brought to Europe after they returned from the Americas. Other than knowing the geographic origin of lice we do not know where lice truly commenced.

From all the research that has been done and all the information that there is on head lice we know that lice have been around as long as humans have been around. Lice have been found on Egyptian mummies and nit combs have been found in their tombs. During the early 1800’s in Europe they learned how to deal with lice, they even had gold crafted lice combs. Head lice are also one of the plagues in the bible. So all the way back from where we know humanity started there has been head lice. Although we do not know how to eliminate lice permanently, we have come up with effective methods over the years to treat it, prevent and ways to keep it under control.