The study of primate evolution from a lousy perspective

David L. Reed, Julie M. Allen, Melissa A. Toups, Bret M. Boyd, Marina S. Ascunce

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The field of primate evolution has long been active, with major fossil discoveries and more recently genetic and genomic studies that enable humans to better understand their place in the world. However, the spottiness of the fossil record and the complicated history of humans have led researchers to look at additional sources of information to study human origins. In particular, evolutionary biologists have examined the parasites and pathogens of humans to glean new insights into our evolutionary past (see Reed et al., 2009 for a review). Some parasites are particularly good at uncovering recent events in human history, such as very recent migrations around the globe. Others are better suited for deep-time evolutionary questions. What is particularly relevant to this book is that parasites help us understand not only their shared evolutionary history with their hosts, but may also help us understand something about the ecology of their hosts. For example, parasites evolve more quickly than their hosts and therefore record evolutionary events in their DNA with greater information. One could use such parasites to study endangered host species, or use gene flow among parasites to study hard-to-track hosts (see Whiteman and Parker, 2005 for other examples). One parasite that has great potential for shedding light on host ecology is the louse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationParasite Diversity and Diversification
Subtitle of host publicationEvolutionary Ecology Meets Phylogenetics
EditorsSerge Morand, Boris R. Krasnov, Timothy J. Littlewood
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781139794749
ISBN (Print)9781107037656
StatePublished - 2015


  • INHS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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