US biologist discovers new species up his nose after research trip to Africa

Nasal surprise led to discovery of new method of spreading disease from chimps to humans

Tony Goldberg, a US professor of pathobiological science, recently returned from an Africa research trip only to discover that a potentially new species of tick had come back with him hidden up his nose. 

"When you first realize you have a tick up your nose, it takes a lot of willpower not to claw your face off," said Goldberg, a professor at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. "But my sense of being grossed out was balanced by my scientific curiosity."

Goldberg only noticed the insect three days after his return to the US and removed the insect using a pair of forceps, a mirror and a torch. He then sent it off to have its DNA sequenced and compared it with the archives in the U.S. National Tick Collection at Georgia Southern University (home to the largest tick collection in the world). He found no match.

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

Even more remarkably, the discovery helped Goldberg fashion a new theory in his area of study: the spread of disease in primates, and how these disease evolve and cross over to humans.

After finding and removing the tick Goldberg contacted Richard Wrangham, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, to find out more about his experience.

Wrangham directed him to a series of high resolution photos of baby chimpanzees. 20 per cent of these showed the young chimps with ticks up their nose – a phenomenon that had not been remarked upon before.

These ticks, from the genus Amblyomma (the same genus to which the tick up Goldberg’s nose belonged) are known disease-carriers, with the nose being their favourite haunt. Chimpanzees are frequent social groomers, removing parasites from each other’s fur as a bonding ritual, but they seldom check noses.

Goldberg’s discovery that these ticks also attempted to leap over to human nostrils was an insight into what he describes as “an underappreciated, indirect, and somewhat weird way in which people and chimps share pathogens.” 

And although Goldberg has been studying the chimpanzees of Kibale National Park in Uganda for years, he’s not surprised to have not  identified the ticks before.

“It’s not really practical or safe to pick ticks out of chimps’ noses,” said Goldberg. “The chimps of Kibale are very well habituated to humans, but they would still object vigorously.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most