Oldest bed bugs found at Neolithic rock shelter

Archaeologists found what they believe are the oldest remains of several species of bed bugs dating back 11000 years in Paisley Caves, southern Oregon, United States of America, thought to be among the earliest known sites of human habitation in the American West.

Remains of Prehistoric bed bugs (by Martin Adams, Dennis L. Jenkins)

Earlier studies of the caves revealed signs of human occupation, including fossilized human faeces, said to be as much as 14300 years old. Among the material found are also thousands of bones belonging to long-extinct fauna, including mastodons, ancestral horses, and camels, as well as remains of insects. Archaeologists looking specially for their remains isolated 14 specimens of bed bugs, most of which belonged to 3 different species: Cimex pilosellus, Cimex latipennis, and Cimex antennatus, all distant cousins of modern parasites of humans, Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus. They were discovered in layers dated to between 5100 and 11000 years old. According to the researchers, these kinds fed on bats. These insects are thought to have started out as bat parasites, but then adapted to eat human blood after humans began living in caves with infected bats. The researchers hope that these specimens will shed light on past cimicid distributions in the Pacific Northwest and help understand the interaction of human populations inhabiting the Paisley Caves with the surrounding.

(after Martin Adams, Dennis L. Jenkins & Western Digs)

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