Cook Islands Biodiversity & Natural Heritage

Pthirus pubis

Pubic Louse

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General Information

COMMON NAMES: Pubic Louse, Pubic Crab-Louse, Crab Louse; German Filzlaus

GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION: NATIVE global, but not in ancient Polynesia

COOK ISLANDS STATUS: Introduced - Recent, Naturalised; Land, parasite on people

SIGNIFICANCE LIST: ; Ectoparasite of people - rare

KEY FEATURES: Minute, flattened, sedentary louse. THORAX wider than abdomen. ABDOMEN with lateral projections. LEGS forelegs slender, hindlegs thick with expanded claws. Usually in the pubic hairs but spreading onto the body.

SIMILAR SPECIES: See under Human Louse (Pediculus humanus)

Enlarged Image of 'Pthirus pubis'

Cook Islands Distribution

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Southern Group: Present    Makatea:

Northern Group:

Key to Symbols

Pests & Hosts

Relationship Hosts
Parasite - external Homo sapiens

Scientific Taxonomy

Pthirus pubis (L., 1758)
SYNONYMS: Phthirus pubis [misspelling]; Pediculus pubis [O]

TAXONOMY: ANIMALIA; ARTHROPODA; ATELOCERATA; HEXAPODA; INSECTA; PTERYGOTA; Phthiraptera; Anoplura; PHTHIRIDAE. COMMENT: The Pubic Louse was named in1758, by Linnaeus as Pediculus pubis. In 1815 Leach put this louse into a new genus and published its new name as Pthirus pubis. In doing this he, or a typesetter, dropped the first "h" of the Greek word Phthirus. Two years later Leach corrected the spelling to Phthirus pubis. However, the international rules on biological names requires that the first published spelling be maintained and therefore the correct name is Pthirus pubis. Pthirus is the only genus in the family PHTHIRIDAE (with the "h"!), and the genus has only two species: Pubic Louse (Pthirus pubis) and Gorilla Louse (Pthirus gorillae). [3/2004, G.McCormack based on data at]

More Information

NEGATIVE SIGNIFICANCE: Ectoparasite of people - rare. Comments: A sedenatary ectoparasite attached to the base of hairs, usually in the pubic area. The bites vary from painless to severe itching, and sometimes form blue spots to 30mmØ. Not known to transmit diseases.

GENERAL NOTE: A sedentary louse attached to the base of hairs usually in the public area, but can be elsewhere. Typically transmitted by sexual intercourse, but sometimes from infected toilet seats, clothing and bedding. Breeds on people only, but sometimes lives on other mammals. Eggs glued to hairs. They hatch in about 7 days, larval stages for 2 weeks, and adult can lay eggs within a weeks, and lives about a month. Reactions of people to the bite vary from unnoticed to severe itching. The bite area sometimes develops a painless irregular blue spot 1-30mmØ. This reaction of the louse saliva develops a few hours after the bites and last several days.

Vouchers & References

None Recorded.

None recorded.

Data Update History (information):
zTX, zB02, zM02, zupM04a, zD02

Web Resources

Citation Information

McCormack, Gerald (2007) Cook Islands Biodiversity Database, Version 2007.2. Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, Rarotonga. Online at Copy citation to system clipboard
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