Lice DNA Reveals When We Stopped Being Nekkid

It’s long been debated exactly when early man started covering up his shame with clothes, a move which allowed him to start migrating to much colder climates like…everywhere except Africa.

Unfortunately, clothes don’t have the staying power of bones, so we’ll never find any fossilized animal skins we can use for dating. But David Reed, associate curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, has come up with a novel way of telling just when we covered up our cave junk. And it involves figuring out just when we started being infested with disgusting, filthy body lice.

You see, there are two different types of lice that infest humans: head lice and body lice, which infest our clothing. Since they share a common ancestor, Reed theorizes that the two types of lice must have diverged around the time we first started wearing clothes. He’s calculated that we were sporting clothes sometime between 83,000 and 170,000 years ago, which means we probably started wearing clothes because of climate change, as the ice age before last started around 180,000 years ago.

So, mankind was able to prevent their asses from being frozen off, even though those same asses were being constantly bitten by lice. Sounds like a pretty fair trade to us, but then we’re covered in filthy body lice right now.