We were all naked until 170,000 years ago

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Clothing first appeared 170,000 years ago. That's what University of Florida researchers have deduced from an unlikely source - the annoying clothing louse.

David Reed, associate curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus, worked with colleagues worldwide for five years to sequence the DNA of clothing lice to determine when they first began to diverge from the harmless but cringe-inducing head louse.

The study, in this month's print edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, finds that the one louse species began to diverge into two about 170,000 years ago, 70,000 years before humans started migrating to colder climates, which began about 100,000 years ago.

Because clothing doesn't last for 170,000 years, looking at lice was the best way to deduce this.

Interestingly, humans seem to have started wearing clothes well after they lost body hair, which genetic skin-coloration research puts at about 1 million years ago. That means that people spent a good long while wandering around without protective and warming body hair and without clothing, says Reed....

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