Microscopic mites have been having sex on your face at night since you were born
Scientist warns the mites face extinction and you should care because of the important role they play
If the mere thought of creepy crawlies is enough to ignite your anxiety, then you'll be terrified to learn that microscopic mites are having sex on your face all night.
While dogs are considered man's best friend, there is a creature we are far closer to throughout our lives. The microscopic creatures are known as Demodex follicularum and live in the pores of your face, especially around the nose and eye area.
The tiny critters are passed from mother to baby during breastfeeding and then spend their entire lives living in our skin follicles. A staggering 90 per cent of people house the creatures, so it may be comforting to some to know you're never really alone.
Throughout the day, the mites feed on oily secretions on our skin, fuelling themselves for a sordid night of mating and laying eggs. But before you rush to the bathroom and plaster your face with cleanser, they live way too deep down to simply wash them away.
Even if you could wipe them out, you may not want to.
Demodex follicularum is sooo cute I hope I have more than the average person I love them pic.twitter.com/5LBELDn4EA
— Zoriety 💚 (@zorietyArt) June 22, 2022
"We should love them because they're the only animals that live on our bodies our entire life and we should appreciate them because they clean our pores," said Dr Alejandra Perotti from the University of Reading, who recently published a study on the DNA of such creatures. "Besides, they're cute," he added.
Perotti said: "We are living in a world where we should be protecting biodiversity -- and these are our very own animal."
Perotti's study was published in the Molecular Biology and Evolution journal on June 21 in what was the first analysis of mite DNA. Researchers found that the mites had the smallest number of functional genes of any arthropod, and their genome is "eroding" due to their dependency on humans.
Their DNA has been stripped to its bare minimum, and they don't even have a gene that regulates sleep patterns. Instead, the mites pick up an increase in melatonin, so they know to get up when they go to sleep. When the hormone levels drop, the mites know it's their bedtime.
They have also lost the gene that protects them from UV light, which has become redundant with their nocturnal habits.
Scientists argue that the relationship is changing from an external parasite into something more comparable to a symbiote.
If their genetic makeup continues to decrease, they could very well become extinct as they are unable to leave their host to find new mates.
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