Big Picture Science – With All Our Mites: Michelle Trautwein / Face Mites

by Gary Niederhoff on December 11, 2017

Demodex folliculorum

With All Our Mites – Face Mites
click to listen (trt 12:21)

Part 1 of With All Our Mites, featuring Michelle Trautwein, curator of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences, describing the tiny arthropods that live in the pores of our faces.

In this segment, Michelle scraped both Seth and Molly’s faces, and a few weeks later got back to us with the results:

“About the results- well, you both had 2 species of face mites- Demodex brevis and Demodex folliculorum (which is exciting…I don’t get both species off of people very often. Of course, most people have both species, but they are tricky to sample).

For both species, your mites clustered in broadly Europeans lineages, but not together. When it comes to hosts from Europe, most mites are pretty genetically similar- so I don’t find big differences between Irish and Italian hosts, for example. It might be, though, that because I am sampling people from the US who are usually of mixed ancestry- the signal is muted. The big differences I find are between mites from Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, Latin America, Europe and East Asia.

Folliculorum: Seth actually clustered with a group of Europeans next door to a group of East Asians. Molly with an Italian – along with other people of European ancestry Brevis: Again- both in a European lineage- Molly next to someone from France.

So, European nationality distinctions aren’t very meaningful when it comes to face mites, unfortunately….”

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