Multiple lineages of lice pass through the K-Pg boundary

Vincent S. Smith, Tom Ford, Kevin P. Johnson, Paul C.D. Johnson, Kazunori Yoshizawa, Jessica E. Light

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For modern lineages of birds and mammals, few fossils have been found that predate the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) boundary. However, molecular studies using fossil calibrations have shown that many of these lineages existed at that time. Both birds and mammals are parasitized by obligate ectoparasitic lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera), which have shared a long coevolutionary history with their hosts. Evaluating whether many lineages of lice passed through the K-Pg boundary would provide insight into the radiation of their hosts. Using molecular dating techniques, we demonstrate that the major louse suborders began to radiate before the K-Pg boundary. These data lend support to a Cretaceous diversification of many modern bird and mammal lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)782-785
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 23 2011


  • Cospeciation
  • Dating
  • Evolution
  • Phthiraptera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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