It’s lice, Jim, but not as we know it

Meet Gliricola (formerly Gyropus) gracilis, the louse of the variegated cavy and Docophorus ocellatus, the louse of the crow. Justine and I are adopting them as our lousy alter-egos. Obviously Justine Crow needs the crow louse. Pretty simple really. But there is no Jones louse. So what to do?

Flicking through Henry Denny’s 1842 louse monograph offered some interesting ideas. I did think of one of the lice of the jay (as in J for Jones), there are two species to choose from, but they are both very similar to the crow louse. Jays and crows are very closely related, and so too are their lice. I quite liked the sound of the louse of the cuckoo, especially as Denny has it as ‘cuckow’. Or there was louse of the gannet, louse of the spoonbill, and louse of the shoveller, if I wanted to emphasize my poor table manners. How about louse of the eagle, of the falcon or of the ‘kestril’? But these are all bird lice, and they all look very much like Justine’s crow louse.

Other alternatives were the louse of the stag (too grand), louse of the dog (too lowly), louse of the ferret (too comical) or louse of the campagnol (?) vole apparently, and too obscure anyway. But then, there it was — louse of the variegated cavy or guinea pig. Done. It’s a slim handsome insect, elegant and refined. Need I say more. And I quite like guinea pigs, even though I am allergic to them. I appreciate the historical importance of a biological test animal. You can eat them too.


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