No, this isn’t a joke or a public service announcement for hygiene. Due to barely-there grooming, pubic lice are losing their preferred habitats – and it’s causing the scientific community concern.
In our hand sanitizer-obsessed culture, we’d probably prefer to not think of the estimated 100 trillion microscopic organisms who call our bodies home. Pubic lice or crab louse, known scientifically as Phthirus pubis, do not transmit disease, but were estimated in 2009 to infest about 2 percent to 10 percent of the human population.
However, in a society where waxing, manscaping, and vajazzing are becoming the norm, pubic lice are on the decline. According to Bloomberg News (yes, it’s a real report from Kenyon College), an estimated 80 percent of U.S. college students have little to no, ahem, habitat for the lowly crab louse. Moreover, in Australia, Sydney’s main sexual health clinic hasn’t seen a female case of pubic lice since 2008.
So, why aren’t we all jumping for joy? According to entomologist Ian F. Burgess, of the Insect Research & Development Ltd, this loss of habitat creates “an environmental disaster in the making for this species.” And, while many organisms are adaptable, over the last 3 million years, pubic lice have come to rely on humans as their sole host species.
That’s right – it’s your nethers or nothing for the little guys.
It’s likely that few will fret over their pending extinction, but naturalists and scientists say their endangered status is a call to make people aware of biodiversity and problems of habitat destruction on a larger level. Even thought they’re unwelcome, their disappearance will impact our delicate ecosystem.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock