Multiple lineages of lice pass through the K-Pg boundary. Academic Article uri icon


  • For modern lineages of birds and mammals, few fossils have been found that predate the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) boundary. However, molecular studies using fossil calibrations have shown that many of these lineages existed at that time. Both birds and mammals are parasitized by obligate ectoparasitic lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera), which have shared a long coevolutionary history with their hosts. Evaluating whether many lineages of lice passed through the K-Pg boundary would provide insight into the radiation of their hosts. Using molecular dating techniques, we demonstrate that the major louse suborders began to radiate before the K-Pg boundary. These data lend support to a Cretaceous diversification of many modern bird and mammal lineages.

published proceedings

  • Biol Lett

altmetric score

  • 62.738

author list (cited authors)

  • Smith, V. S., Ford, T., Johnson, K. P., Johnson, P., Yoshizawa, K., & Light, J. E.

citation count

  • 46

complete list of authors

  • Smith, Vincent S||Ford, Tom||Johnson, Kevin P||Johnson, Paul CD||Yoshizawa, Kazunori||Light, Jessica E

publication date

  • October 2011