The microscopic creatures called Demodex folliculorum live on our hair and feast on the oils in the pores of our skin. At night, they leave the pores to find mates, find new follicles to have sex in and lay eggs
Tiny mites that have sex on our faces at night could very well face extinctions, scientist have found.
Yes, you read that right.
These tiny organisms, clocking it at a length of just 0.3 millimetres, are facing extinction due to inbreeding and loss of genes, show findings published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution showed.
Let’s take a closer look at what they are, where they’re found and why they could be saying bye-bye:
What are they?
As per Discover Magazine, these tiny critters called Demodex folliculorum live on our hair and feast on the oils in the pores of our skin.
At night, they leave the pores to find mates, and find new follicles in which to have sex and lay their eggs.
Where are they found?
They are most often found on eyelashes, eyebrows or near the nose.
Wait, how did they get there?
The main way they spread between humans is by leaping from a mother’s nipple to a baby’s face during breastfeeding. They are found in over 90 per cent of human beings
Yikes. Should I wash my face?
They’re burrowed too deeply in our skin.
Besides, as Dr Alejandra Perotti of the University of Reading, who co-authored the study told Sky News, “We should love them because they’re the only animals that live on our bodies our entire life and we should appreciate them because they clean our pores.”
“Besides, they’re cute,” added Perotti.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem is inbreeding.
Aside from mother-child transmission, mites and their descendants all stay on one human, as per Discover Magazine.
Experts say they inbreed for over 1,200 generations from the time they first infect a host to the time the host dies. That’s comparable to your ancestors inbreeding for 30,000 years.
This, of course, comes at a cost.
Researchers found changes to its DNA, resulting in unusual body features and behaviours, as per Down To Earth.
Also, the species has become extremely simple, surviving with the minimum supply of proteins — the lowest among related species, the researchers highlighted.
The loss in genes has also an extreme reduction in the number of cells in adult mites – a likely first evolutionary step in their journey towards adopting an entirely symbiotic lifestyle within our tissues, as per The Guardian.
These adaptations are causing the issue. The more they adapt to us, the more genes they lose and eventually they will become entirely dependent on us for their existence.
Because of this dependence they won’t be able to leave our pores and find a new mate to couple up with, as per BBC.
Their isolated existence and resulting inbreeding may ultimately have set the mites on course for an evolutionary dead end.
And that’s bad because?
Only if you like healthy skin.
“They are associated with healthy skin, so if we lose them you could face problems with your skin,” Perotti told the BBC.