Mol Biol Evol (2010) doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq234
Origin of clothing lice indicates early clothing use by anatomically modern humans in Africa
Melissa A. Toups et al.
Clothing use is an important modern behavior that contributed to the successful expansion of humans into higher latitudes and cold climates. Previous research suggests that clothing use originated anywhere between 40,000 and 3 million years ago, though there is little direct archaeological, fossil, or genetic evidence to support more specific estimates. Since clothing lice evolved from head louse ancestors once humans adopted clothing, dating the emergence of clothing lice may provide more specific estimates of the origin of clothing use. Here, we use a Bayesian coalescent modeling approach to estimate that clothing lice diverged from head louse ancestors at least by 83,000 and possibly as early as 170,000 years ago. Our analysis suggests that the use of clothing likely originated with anatomically modern humans in Africa and reinforces a broad trend of modern human developments in Africa during the Middle to Late Pleistocene.