The still-dreaded, age-old genital herpes virus can be traced back to a mysterious ancient interaction between Homo erectus and an ancient primate known as the Nutcracker Man.
Paranthropus boisei, known for its massive teeth, somehow encountered Homo erectus, introducing a new form of herpes that affects all primate species.
Collaborating virologists and anthropologists blending geographic and fossil evidence made the connection. Published Sunday in the journal Virus Evolution, their research builds on findings that oral herpes dates back 6 million years, when human and chimpanzees parted ways. But just 1.4 million years ago, genital herpes, spread by bodily fluids, found its way from chimps to humans.