This 'Nipple Mite' Has Sex on Your Face While You Sleep


Don’t let the bedbugs mate.

Thought bedbugs were revolting? Microscopic “nipple” mites that make whoopie on people’s faces may soon “become one with humans,” according to a skin-scrawling study published in the journal “Molecular Biology and Evolution.”

“Changes to their DNA have resulted in some unusual body features and behaviors,” study co-author Alejandra Perotti, of the UK’s University of Reading, said of the discovery.

Perotti was referring to the ubiquitous skin parasite demodex folliculorum, which resides in hair follicles on our face and nipples, and subsists on the oil released from our pores. If that wasn’t revolting enough, these 0.3-mm-long skin-terlopers even mate on our faces during the night.

However, it appears these follicular freeloaders’ lovemaking habits have had terrible consequences. After analyzing their gene sequences, scientists found that the mite’s isolated existence and resultant inbreeding activities are causing them to shed superfluous genes, potentially transforming from parasites to internal symbionts. In laymen’s terms, they are merging with humans and may soon reside permanently within us.

“We found these mites have a different arrangement of body part genes to other similar species due to them adapting to a sheltered life inside pores,” said Perotti of the sex-induced interspecies splicing.

Potentially becoming one with humans isn’t the only side effect of this gene reduction. For one, the mites are exclusively nocturnal as they lack UV protection as well as the gene that causes animals to be awakened by daylight. They also can’t produce melatonin — a compound that regulates sleep in small invertebrates — but are able to power their facial hanky-panky sessions by harvesting the substance from their human host at sunset, Science Alert reported.

The mite’s unique gene arrangement has also bestowed males with a penis that juts upward from the front of their body. This forces them to cling to the female’s underside during sex as they both hang from the human hair.

Unfortunately, their peculiar procreation habits may paradoxically lead to their demise. Specifically, rampant inbreeding limits the number of genes the critters can pass onto offspring, effectively setting “the mites on course for an evolutionary dead end, and potential extinction,” the study found.


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