Face Mites’ humble lifestyle has pushed their penises to strange places

Face Mites’ humble lifestyle has pushed their penises to strange places

Face Mites’ humble lifestyle has pushed their penises to strange places

Face Mites’ humble lifestyle has pushed their penises to strange places

“Eating sebum and pooping regularly? It’s not much, but it’s fair work,” – D. folliculorum, 2022. Image Credit: University of Reading

Nearly every human face is home to mites that feed on the sebum released by cells. They forage among our hair follicles for nocturnal mating marathons — and now new research has shed light on the extraordinary effect their humble lives have had on their genetics.

face mites (Demodex folliculorum) are microscopic, but using serious zoom-in and genome sequencing, a paper published in Molecular Biology and Evolution reports how simplistic these animals have become. They live almost entirely alone on our faces and rarely encounter competing parasites – and since they only mate with genetically similar mites, their body plans aren’t much to shout about.

“We found that these mites have a different arrangement of body part genes than other comparable species because they adapt to a sheltered life in the pores,” said Dr Alejandra Perotti, an associate professor of invertebrate biology at the University of Groningen. University of Reading, who together – led the study.

“These changes in their DNA have led to some unusual body characteristics and behaviors.”

Each 0.3mm mite has tiny legs powered by only three single-celled muscles, and they are made up of the lowest number of proteins of any known related species. Their genotype is so simple that they have lost the gene that causes them to wake up in response to daylight, which is why our face parties are nocturnal.

Good thing too, because they lack any kind of protection against ultraviolet light. D. folliculorum is able to steal some of what they lack from their human hosts because while they don’t have the genes needed to produce melatonin, they can look for it by nibbling on the melatonin that passes through our minds every night skin is excreted.

face mite penis

The penises of male mites are not in the easiest places. Image credit: University of Reading

The sex lives of the mites have also taken a turn in the face of declining genetics, forcing the males’ penises into such a position (pointing upward from the front of their bodies, a bit like a hornet’s horn). rhinoceros) that the only way they can copulate is by standing under a woman while they’re both clinging to a human hair.

Strangely enough, the mites actually have a greater diversity of cells in their bodies as young mites, but this number decreases with age. This could indicate that they are shuffling to become symbionts – a form of mutualism where something lives off the other, but they both benefit each other.

In the case of facial mites, that benefit could be that clogged pores are eaten away.

face mite anus

Justification came for facial mites because they were proven to have anus. Image credit: University of Reading

People thought anus was something else D. folliculorum was missing, instead just accumulating food and feces until they died and released it all, reportedly causing skin inflammation. However, this latest investigation found that they do indeed have anus and are therefore not guilty of explosive death-induced poop-induced inflammation.

“Mites have been blamed for many things,” said Dr. Henk Braig, co-lead author of Bangor University and the National University of San Juan. “The long association with humans could indicate that they can also play a simple but important beneficial role, for example by keeping the pores in our face loose.”