Meet the mites that have sex on your face and nipples while you sleep

Meet the mites that have sex on your face and nipples while you sleep

The idea of ​​eight-legged mites having sex on your face and nipples while you sleep might sound like a concept from the latest horror blockbuster.

But the creatures are very real and are becoming such simplified organisms that they may soon “become one with humans”, according to a new study.

Demodex folliculorum mites are carried by almost all humans on the face, eyelashes and nipples, moving between follicles in search of a mate.

Researchers at the University of Reading have sequenced the genome of a mite for the first time and found that inbreeding causes them to lose unnecessary genes and cells.

Worryingly, the team says dust mites are evolving to transition from external parasites to “internal symbionts” that live inside of us.

The idea of ​​eight-legged mites having sex on your face while you sleep might sound like a concept from the latest horror blockbuster.  But the creatures are very real and are becoming such simplified organisms that they could soon

The idea of ​​eight-legged mites having sex on your face while you sleep might sound like a concept from the latest horror blockbuster. But the creatures are very real and are becoming such simplified organisms that they may soon ‘be one with humans’, a new study has found.

D. folliculorum mites are carried by almost all humans on the face, eyelashes and even nipples, moving between follicles in search of a mate

D. folliculorum mites are carried by almost all humans on the face, eyelashes and even nipples, moving between follicles in search of a mate

What are facial mites?

Nicknamed “face mites,” D. folliculorum are actually tiny arachnids that inhabit human body hair and consume skin cells and oils.

The mites exist in human ears, eyebrows and eyelashes as well as in the hair covering the nipples and genitals.

Demodex has probably been living with us for a long time; as early humans left Africa and made their way across the world, researchers say.

They found that mites from China are genetically distinct from mites from the Americas. The populations of East Asia and Europe diverged more than 40,000 years ago and so far it seems that their mites did too.

The mites are only 0.01 inch (0.3 mm) long and are transmitted at birth.

In their study, the researchers attempted to explain their bizarre mating habits, body characteristics and evolutionary future, by analyzing their DNA.

Dr Alejandra Perotti, who co-led the research, said: “We found that these mites had a different arrangement of body part genes compared to other similar species due to their adaptation to a sheltered life in the air. inside the pores.

“These changes in their DNA resulted in unusual body characteristics and behaviors.”

Dust mites live an isolated existence, unexposed to outside threats.

For this reason, the mites eliminate unnecessary genes and cells and survive on the minimum number of proteins, according to the researchers.

Among the genes lost are those that provide UV protection and cause animals to wake up in daylight, which explains their nocturnal behavior.

And although the mites have lost their ability to produce melatonin – a compound that makes invertebrates active at night – they can still fuel their evening mating sessions using melatonin secreted by human skin.

Mites also have strange mating habits due to their unique genetic disposition.

The males have a penis that protrudes upwards, which means they have to position themselves under the female, while both cling to human hair.

One of their genes flipped, giving them a protruding arrangement of mouth appendages for food gathering.

It also makes it easier for them to survive at a young age, the researchers say.

Previous studies have suggested that mites do not have an anus and that feces accumulate throughout their lives before being released when they die.

For this reason, mites have been blamed for several skin and eye conditions, including rosacea and blepharitis.

However, the new study confirms that they do have anuses and says the mites have been “unfairly blamed” for these conditions.

The mites are only 0.01 inch (0.3 mm) long and are transmitted at birth.  Pictured: A mite under a walking microscope

The mites are only 0.01 inch (0.3 mm) long and are transmitted at birth. Pictured: A mite under a walking microscope

Previous studies have suggested that the mites do not have an anus and that their droppings may cause skin conditions.  However, the new study confirms that they have anuses (indicated by an arrow)

Previous studies have suggested that the mites do not have an anus and that their droppings may cause skin conditions. However, the new study confirms that they have anuses (indicated by an arrow)

While new mates might add new genes to the offspring, the mites are not exposed to potential mates and instead reproduce.

Overall, the researchers say this could cause the mites to become symbionts, and warn they could be on the way to an “evolutionary dead end”.

Dr Henk Braig, co-lead author from Bangor University and San Juan National University, said: “Mites have been blamed for many things.

“The long association with humans might suggest that they might also have simple but important beneficial roles, for example, keeping our facial pores unplugged.”

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