For Easter, I gave you guys some spectacular parasite ecology papers for your Easter baskets. I think you also deserve some parasite ecology papers to devour while you’re eating all your hard-won Halloween candy. Put on some mood music, and prepare to be scared! (Note: I considered linking to a bunch of super yicky things, like botflies, but I decided against it. So, don’t be too nervous.)
To start, let me disgust you with a tale of a worm that eats worms. Nothing is quite as delicious as a parasitic worm! Chaetogaster limnaei is a tiny annelid worm that lives as an ectosymbiont of snails. This little worm eats trematode parasites as the parasites try to infect the snails, and that leads to a reduction in snail infection. Hopkins et al. (2013) found that Chaetogaster can rapidly asexually reproduce in response to high parasite densities, so snails exposed to more parasites also end up with more defensive symbionts. Neat! You can read the open access paper here for more details.
But that’s not the only scare that I have for you. What if I told you that seabirds can produce a paralytic perfume? Crested auklets secret aldehydes that paralyze their lice parasites. Creepy! (PDF link)
What could be more creepy crawly than BRAIN MANIPULATING PARASITES? In the past, I’ve blogged about parasites that manipulate host behavior to increase the probability of parasite transmission – like with zombie snails, zombie ants, and zombie crabs. But what about parasites that manipulate human behavior? This Trends in Parasitology paper discusses how Toxoplasma gondii might manipulate human behavior. I’m going to blog more about Toxoplasma in the near future, so stay tuned!
Here’s a question for you. If parasites went to Halloween parties, what would they dress up as? Themselves? Or: