Eight-legged little creature has sex on your face while you sleep, researchers say

New research says that tiny eight-legged creatures have sex on your face while you sleep. The mites, invisible to the naked eye, are in the skin of all humans – and have bizarre mating habits.

Researchers say paired pairs cling to our hair as they copulate – the bug world’s version of a ‘dangling chandelier’. They are passed during birth and are carried by almost every individual and the numbers peak in adults as the pores are larger.

Now scientists have uncovered the secret lives of the critters—from body characteristics to their evolutionary future. According to scientists, the first complete DNA analysis suggests that they are becoming simplified creatures that may soon become one with us.

Co-lead author Professor Alejandra Perotti, from the University of Reading, said: “We found that these mites have a different arrangement of body part genes to other similar species, as they have adapted to a sheltered life inside the pores. These changes occur in their DNA. They result in some unusual physical characteristics and behaviors.”

There are over 48,000 species of mites – two of which live on our faces. They can only be seen under a microscope – and look like wall plugs.

A long cone-shaped body with stubby legs at one end. We spend more time with strange creatures than with any other animal. They also protect against acne and blemishes by unplugging the pores.

Mites are relatives of spiders – and can be found buried under the head in our hair follicles that eat the oils we secrete. They join with each other near the surface.

Their survival is isolated with no exposure to external threats, infecting hosts, or encounters with other mites. The genetic deficiency has enabled them to survive with minimal repertoire of proteins – the lowest numbers ever found in a mite.

The short legs are driven by only three single-celled muscles. The mites lack UV protection and have lost the gene that causes the animals to wake up in daylight.

They have also been left unable to produce melatonin – a compound that makes small invertebrates active at night. But they are able to fuel their all-night mating session by using melatonin secreted by human skin in the evening.

They also have strange mating habits as a result of their unique gene arrangement. The reproductive organs have progressed.

Males have a penis that protrudes from the front of their body upwards. They have to put themselves under the female while mating – and copulate because they both cling to human hair.

One of their genes is reversed, giving them a special arrangement of mouth-appendages to store food. This helps in their survival at a young age.

Mites have many more cells at puberty rather than adult age – countering the previous notion that parasitic animals reduce their cell numbers early in development. This is the first step toward becoming a symbiosis of the mites – closely related to its much larger human host.

Lack of exposure to potential mates who may add new genes to their offspring could set mites on course for an evolutionary dead end – and potential extinction. This phenomenon has previously been observed in bacteria living inside cells – but never in an animal.

Some scientists theorized that mites do not have an anus and therefore must deposit all their feces over their lifetime before releasing it when they die – causing swelling of the skin. But scientists said the study confirmed they have anus – and so have been unfairly blamed for many skin conditions.

Co-lead author Dr Henk Brigg, from Bangor University, said: “Mites have been blamed for many things. The long association with humans may suggest that they may also have simple but important beneficial roles, for example , in keeping pores. Unplugged in our faces.”

The study was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

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