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Monday, October 7, 2013

Biologist discovers new species up his nose after research trip to Africa

"When you first realize you have a tick up your nose, it takes a lot of willpower not to claw your face off," said Goldberg, a professor at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. "But my sense of being grossed out was balanced by my scientific curiosity."

Goldberg only noticed the insect three days after his return to the US and removed the insect using a pair of forceps, a mirror and a torch. He then sent it off to have its DNA sequenced and compared it with the archives in the U.S. National Tick Collection at Georgia Southern University (home to the largest tick collection in the world). He found no match.

These ticks, from the genus Amblyomma (the same genus to which the tick up Goldberg’s nose belonged) are known disease-carriers, with the nose being their favourite haunt. Chimpanzees are frequent social groomers, removing parasites from each other’s fur as a bonding ritual, but they seldom check noses.

Goldberg’s discovery that these ticks also attempted to leap over to human nostrils was an insight into what he describes as “an underappreciated, indirect, and somewhat weird way in which people and chimps share pathogens.”

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