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No. 79: Jan-Feb 1992

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The Louse Line

We all learned about the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer in high school, but the voyagers of old also recognized a "louse line."

"They wrote about arriving at a longitudinal point in the tropics -- the so-called 'louse line' -- where fleas and lice abandoned even healthy humans. Although a specific line is a myth, cultural entomologist Charles Hogue of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles believes part of the story. 'Voyagers in the tropics often experience a rise in body temperature of as much as 4 degrees F.' That's enough, he says, to kill some species of fleas.

Also, the traumatic experience of being caught in a trap causes the body temperature of animals to rise. Thus, trappers often witness fleas jumping off a trapped animal by the dozens. (Johnson, Donna; "How to Tell Time by a Cat's Eye," National wildlife, 29:12, October/November 1991.)

From Science Frontiers #79, JAN-FEB 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987