Yes, you read that right. Professor Tony Goldberg, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, returned from a research trip to Africa to discover ‘an arachnid stowaway‘ in his nasal cavity.
Turned out to be a tick (rather an unpleasant creature to find hiding up your nose), and, after removing it ever-so-carefully, Professor Goldberg sent it to be DNA sequenced and compared to other species at the US National Tick Collection at Georgia University. There were no matching records, meaning that either it’s a species that’s known but not yet sequenced, or it’s a completely new species.
The article listed above has some fascinating speculations from Goldberg about how diseases are transmitted among chimpanzees – since grooming works to remove parasites such as ticks, some ticks may have evolved to get into ‘hard-to-reach’ places (scare quotes because I’m shuddering while typing this).
Meanwhile, I’m crossing Africa off my list of holiday destinations, and adding the US National Tick Collection at Georgia University. Or maybe not.
[Feature image: Bonobo (pygmy chimp). Image by Kabir Bakie, licensed under Creative Commons 2.5]