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Biologist Finds Possible New Species… in His Own Nose

Biologist Finds Possible New Species… in His Own Nose

Written by Stephen Messenger

Oftentimes, researchers have to travel deep into some remote corner of the globe to find organisms still unknown to science. Other times, undocumented species are found hiding in plain sight, right under their noses.

For pathobiological science professor Tony Goldberg, his latest discovery turned out to be even closer than that.

A few days after returning home from a research expedition in Africa, Goldberg noticed an arachnid stowaway nestled in his nasal cavity. After the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine professor determined it was a tick, he was understandably horrified, but also rather intrigued.

“When you first realize you have a tick up your nose, it takes a lot of willpower not to claw your face off,” Goldberg told Science Daily. “But my sense of being grossed out was balanced by my scientific curiosity.”

Goldberg proceeded to carefully remove the tiny bloodsucker using forceps and a mirror. That’s when he began to suspect that what he just pulled out of his nose might be a creature no one has ever documented before. So, Goldberg then sent the tick to be DNA sequenced and compared to known species at the U.S. National Tick Collection at Georgia Southern University. The results, while not conclusive, did at least further his suspicion.

“Either it’s a species of tick that is known but has never been sequenced, or it’s a new species of tick,” says Goldberg.

Interestingly, the experience has helped shape a new theory in Goldberg’s area of research: how diseases are transmitted among chimpanzees. It’s well-known that grooming rituals help keep parasitic pests at bay, some ticks might have actually evolved to prefer hard-to-reach places, like nostrils, to avoid detection — allowing the pathogens they carry to spread more easily in chimp populations.

If it weren’t for that first-hand experience as a fellow primate with a tick up its nose, Goldberg says such a discovery may have never been made at all:

“It’s not really practical or safe to pick ticks out of chimps’ noses.”

This post was originally published in TreeHugger

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Photo Credit: John Tann

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90 comments

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4:35AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

7:54PM PST on Nov 23, 2013

disgusting!

3:57AM PST on Nov 11, 2013

EEEwwww

2:51AM PST on Nov 7, 2013

Noted

2:16AM PST on Nov 7, 2013

EEEEKS

8:09AM PST on Nov 4, 2013

Nose would've been gone. Face would've been messed up. Would've needed plastic surgery, which means that I would have to stand on corner with sign saying "Will work for money to have new face put on!"

6:11AM PST on Nov 4, 2013

If i found that in my nose it'd be dead and on the ground in a second.

3:52AM PST on Nov 4, 2013

I had tics, fleas, processionary caterpillar rash & ringworm (I now its not an insect) all part of working at an animal rescue in a hot country, I would freak if one had gone up my nose or in my ears.......felt soooo sorry for the poor animals that often came in covered in them, & so many dogs chained at empty fincas, with their oil barrel(usually rusty with holes) as their only means of shelter & nothing ever given to prevent the insects from harming them

6:46PM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

Makes you think twice about visiting other countries. When my brother and his family returned from a trip to Australia, they saw worms crawling out of the mouth of one of their toddlers. Scary! Think I prefer to stay in the U.S.

2:24PM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

Good save, Prof. Goldberg. Maybe you will be the modern-day James Herriot with your humor.

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