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Eating lizards: a millenary habit evidenced by Paleoparasitology

Luciana Sianto1, Isabel Teixeira-Santos1, Marcia Chame1, Sergio M Chaves1, Sheila M Souza1, Luiz Fernando Ferreira1, Karl Reinhard2 and Adauto Araujo1*

Author Affiliations

1 Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Avenida Brasil 4365, Manguinhos, CEP 21040-900, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil

2 University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources, 719 Hardin Hall, 3100 Holdrege Street, Lincoln, NE 68583-0987, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:586  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-586

Published: 25 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Analyses of coprolites have contributed to the knowledge of diet as well as infectious diseases in ancient populations. Results of paleoparasitological studies showed that prehistoric groups were exposed to spurious and zoonotic parasites, especially food-related. Here we report the findings of a paleoparasitological study carried out in remote regions of Brazil’s Northeast.

Findings

Eggs of Pharyngodonidae (Nematoda, Oxyuroidea), a family of parasites of lizards and amphibians, were found in four human coprolites collected from three archaeological sites. In one of these, lizard scales were also found.

Conclusions

Through the finding of eggs of Pharyngodonidae in human coprolites and reptile

scales in one of these, we have provided evidence that humans have consumed reptiles at least 10,000 years ago. This food habit persists to modern times in remote regions of Brazil’s Northeast. Although Pharyngodonidae species are not known to infect humans, the consumption of raw or undercooked meat from lizards and other reptiles may have led to transmission of a wide range of zoonotic agents to humans in the past.

Keywords:
Paleoparasitology; Coprolite; Helminths; Lizard; Zoonosis