April 21, 2010

Boys Have Cooties!

Lice are nasty. And cooties are just as bad…after all, they’re the same thing!
Humans didn’t wash themselves or their clothes very much in the old days. As a result, most people had lice in their hair AND in their clothes! (A louse is a small, nasty insect that makes its living by hiding on your head and biting you.)

Since lice are nicknamed "cooties," boys AND girls had cooties! So a hundred years ago, it wouldn’t be that unusual for a boy to sit in class and see a white critter crawl out of his table-partner’s hair. Cooties! 

So when did people FIRST get cooties? It turns out that there's more than one kind! Head lice have been around for as long as humans have.

But body lice showed up for the first time 200,000 years ago. And by tracing the ways that lice have evolved, scientists believe that clothes were also invented about the same time!

That's because it was about 200,000 years ago that humans began settling in cold northern areas where they HAD to have clothes to survive. And after humans start wearing clothes, body lice start showing up for the first time. (These cooties are specially designed to hiding in the folds of clothing.)

What a rip-off: Right when humans get less gross and start wearing clothes, a disgusting parasite moves in on their wardrobe! Full story here.

Lousy Bonus: Click on "Read more" for an extra tale of cooties!
Five hundred years ago, a Spanish visitor once saw a number of bags in the palace of Montezuma, the ruler of the ancient native American people, the Aztecs.

The Spaniard thought the bags were full of treasure, and opened them up. The bags were full of squirming lice! The Aztec people believed that even if they were broke, they could still show respect to Montezuma by picking lice off their bodies and giving the creatures to him. 

1 comment:

  1. Several years back in elementary school, head lice topped the school board meeting agenda. I remember from my own childhood that keeping a girls hair in braid and giving the boys buss cuts.


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