January 28, 2010
January 28 - Vandellia cirrhosa
Seems like everyone's been kind of gaga over vampires lately, so thought I would use a vampire as today's parasite. Vandellia cirrhosa is a relatively small catfish that lives in the murky waters of the Amazon river basin. It swims into the gills of a fish, slices open a wound with its teeth and engorges itself with fish blood. It then drops off, hides out, and waits until it's hungry again to go seek out a new victim. These little fish also have another sinister reputation - there has been one documented report of a candiru, as they are commonly called, mistaking the human urethra for a fish gill where it became lodged in the man's penis and had to be removed via surgery. Although fairly widespread in the folklore of the region, these invasions of man appear to be rare and their primary targets are indeed fish. My favorite quote about these parasitic fish was stumbled upon on a website devoted to aquarium lovers who keep catfish. Under "husbandry", the description says, "For obvious reasons this fish should be kept alone; smaller fish are not ignored by this fish and can be killed outright by one parasitic visitation."