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The Discovery Files - Lice to Have Met You

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Head lice study supports direct contact between modern and archaic humans.

Credit: NSF/Clear Channel Communications/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:
If you want to research the earliest living humans, you have to look at what lived on them.

I'm Bob Karson with "The Discovery Files" -- new advances in science and engineering, from the National Science Foundation.

Common head lice are being studied to uncover human history. If that's got you scratching your head, let's go back say twenty-five thousand years, when homo sapiens was supposedly the only human species on Earth. Another species, homo erectus, was thought to have gone extinct long before.

Now here's where the lice come in. We don't know whether the two human species fought each other, lived together, or just casually dated, but they had contact. Scientists have now found that the lice jumped from one species to the other. That can only happen with direct contact. Surprising proof of two different human species living at the same time and just itching to share their secret.

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research, brought to you by you! Learn more at

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