Tromping around in the wilderness is all in a day's work for those who study insects and arachnids, and discovering a new species is a great way to put your name on the map. However, one entomologist was right 'on the nose,' so to speak, with his latest discovery.
Right after returning to his lab from a trip to Uganda, University of Wisconsin veterinary entomologist Tony Goldberg found himself standing in front of a mirror with a pair of tweezers and a flashlight, looking up into his own nose for an eight-legged hitchhiker. He'd gone through this procedure before after other field trips. Some species of tick that live on chimps have escaped the chimps' grooming regimens by taking refuge inside inside the nostrils.
"I can't think of a better way to do that than hide in an anatomic site that is difficult to access with the fingers," Goldberg said, according to Huffington Post. "There are several of those — some of which we won't discuss — but the nostril certainly counts."
It seems these ticks aren't too choosy about exactly what kind of primate nostril they live in, though, so occasionally someone spending time in those areas of the world will end up with a tiny stowaway. The little blood-sucker Goldberg plucked from among his nose hairs was indeed a tick, just like he thought. However, once he'd analyzed its genetic code, it turns out that it may be from a species that's never been seen before.
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Not all tick species have had their genetic code analyzed, so it's possible that this is a previously-known species that hadn't been examined that closely. However, there's a chance it could be a brand new discovery! Since these arachnids are one possible way for diseases to be transmitted between different animals, knowing all of the possible tick species and what they carry is very important. Species of ticks similar to this one are known to carry bacteria and parasites that can make us sick. The most lethal of those goes by the name 'Rocky Mountain spotted fever'.
The only way to be sure if this is a new species, it seems, is for researchers to gather more of them for study. Who's up for donating their nostrils for science?
(Photo courtesy: Tony Goldberg and James Jones)
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