• 1 University Museum of Bergen, PO Box 7800, 5020 Bergen, Norway. Electronic address:
  • 2 Department of Ecology, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamýcká 129, 165 00 Praha-Suchdol, Czech Republic
  • 3 Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
  • 4 Entomología, Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, 40 Piso, Pabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria C1428EHA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 5 Department of Zoology, National Museum (Natural History), Václavské nám. 68, 115 79 Praha 1, Czech Republic; Department of Zoology, Charles University, Viničná 7, 128 43 Praha 2, Czech Republic
  • 6 Posgrado en Biociencias, Departamento de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas, Universidad de Sonora, Luis Donaldo Colosio, 83000 Hermosillo, México
  • 7 Laboratorio de Entomología, Instituto de la Patagonia, Universidad de Magallanes, Avenida Bulnes, 01855 Punta Arenas, Chile
  • 8 Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia
  • 9 Montana Institute on Ecosystems, Montana State University, 605 Leon Johnson Hall, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
  • 10 Department of Biology, Cuyahoga Community College, 1000 W. Pleasant Valley Road, Parma, OH 44130, USA
  • 11 CimexStore, Prior's Loft, Coleford Road, Tidenham, Chepstow, Monmouthshire NP16 7JD, UK
  • 12 National Museum of Natural History, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1 Tzar Osvoboditel Boulevard, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
  • 13 Evolution, Behaviour, and Environment Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK
  • 14 University Museum of Bergen, PO Box 7800, 5020 Bergen, Norway
  • 15 Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK; Applied Zoology, Department of Biology, Technische Universität Dresden, Helmholtzstrasse 10, 01069 Dresden, Germany. Electronic address:
Curr Biol, 2019 06 03;29(11):1847-1853.e4.
PMID: 31104934 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.04.048


All 100+ bedbug species (Cimicidae) are obligate blood-sucking parasites [1, 2]. In general, blood sucking (hematophagy) is thought to have evolved in generalist feeders adventitiously taking blood meals [3, 4], but those cimicid taxa currently considered ancestral are putative host specialists [1, 5]. Bats are believed to be the ancestral hosts of cimicids [1], but a cimicid fossil [6] predates the oldest known bat fossil [7] by >30 million years (Ma). The bedbugs that parasitize humans [1, 8] are host generalists, so their evolution from specialist ancestors is incompatible with the "resource efficiency" hypothesis and only partially consistent with the "oscillation" hypothesis [9-16]. Because quantifying host shift frequencies of hematophagous specialists and generalists may help to predict host associations when vertebrate ranges expand by climate change [17], livestock, and pet trade in general and because of the previously proposed role of human pre-history in parasite speciation [18-20], we constructed a fossil-dated, molecular phylogeny of the Cimicidae. This phylogeny places ancestral Cimicidae to 115 mya as hematophagous specialists with lineages that later frequently populated bat and bird lineages. We also found that the clades, including the two major current urban pests, Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus, separated 47 mya, rejecting the notion that the evolutionary trajectories of Homo caused their divergence [18-21]. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.