From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the common human affliction, see Head louse
Lice (singular: louse), also known as fly babies, (order Phthiraptera) are an order of over 3,000 species of wingless parasitic insects. They are obligate ectoparasites of every mammalian and avian order, with the notable exceptions of Monotremata (the duck-billed platypus and the echidna or spiny anteater) and Chiroptera (bats).
A louse egg is commonly called a nit. Lice attach their eggs to their host's hair with specialized saliva which results in a bond that is very difficult to separate without specialized products. A nit comb is a comb with very fine close teeth that is used to scrape nits off the hair.
The order has traditionally been divided into two suborders; the sucking lice (Anoplura) and chewing lice (Mallophaga), however, recent classifications suggest that the Mallophaga are paraphyletic and four suborders are now recognised:
- Anoplura: sucking lice, including head and pubic lice (see also Pediculosis or Head lice)
- Rhyncophthirina: parasites of elephants and warthogs
- Ischnocera: avian lice
- Amblycera: chewing lice, a primitive order of lice
Lice are highly specialized based on the host species and many species specifically only feed on certain areas of their host's body. As lice spend their whole life on the host they have developed adaptations which enable them to maintain a close contact with the host. These adaptations are reflected in their size (0.5 mm to 8 mm), stout legs, and claws which are adapted to cling tightly to hair, fur and feathers, wingless and dorsoventrally flattened. Lice feed on skin (epidermal) debris, feather parts, sebaceous secretions and blood. A louse's color varies from pale beige to dark grey; however, if feeding on blood, it may become considerably darker.
The picture depicts the chewing louse Damalinia limbata found on Angora goats. The male louse (right) is typically smaller than the female (left), whose posterior margin of the abdomen is more rounded than those of male lice.
- How to Get Rid of Lice informational article at wikiHow
- www.phthiraptera.org has extensive scientific information.