Congratulations to Dr Renfu Shao and colleauges, including Assoc Prof Steve Barker, on being published in the 2 April 2009 edition of the leading science journal, Nature.

The 'Research Highlights' section of the issue profiles a finding by the group in relation to the mitrochondrial genomics of head lice.

Under the heading, 'Bloody Anomaly', the item reads:
"Blood-sucking lice are common.  Genetically, they are also unsual, say Renfu Shao at the University of Queensland, Australia, and his colleagues.  Using information from the Human Body Louse Genome Project, the team found that the mitrochondrial genome of the human body louse (Pediculus humanus) is splintered into 18 mini-chromosomes.

Chromosome fragmentation seems to have evolved along with blood sucking: the authors found it in human head and pubic lice, as well as in blood-sucking lice of other primates, but not in related lice that feed on other material.  The chromosomal break-up may have been advantageous by increasing recombination between mini-chromosomes and introducing genetic variation that helped lice adapt to a bloody mammalian diet."

Additionally, Assoc Prof Barker was interviewed by GEN magazine (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News) about the influence of Charles Darwin on his and Dr Shao's work on the genomes of lice and ticks and on their paper on the remarkable mitochondrial minichromosomes of the lice of primates.  You can listen to a podcast of the interview here.

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