Royal Society Publishing

Out of Africa: origins of the Taenia tapeworms in humans

E. P. Hoberg , N. L. Alkire , A. D. Queiroz , A. Jones

Abstract

Phylogenetic and divergence date analyses indicate that the occurrence of Taenia tapeworms in humans pre–dates the development of agriculture, animal husbandry and domestication of cattle (Bos spp.) or swine (Sus scrofa). Taeniid tapeworms in Africa twice independently colonized hominids and the genus Homo prior to the origin of modern humans. Dietary and behavioural shifts, from herbivory to scavenging and carnivory, as early Homo entered the carnivore guild in the Pliocene/Pleistocene, were drivers for host switching by tapeworms to hominids from carnivores including hyaenids and felids. Parasitological data provide a unique means of elucidating the historical ecology, foraging behaviour and food habits of hominids during the diversification of Homo spp.

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